by Carmen LeBlanc, MS, ACAAB, CPDT
MET: 3 Keys to Raising Your Lassie
Dogs are meant to lead active, social lives. These days, unfortunately, they often develop behavior problems because they’re bored, lonely and underexercised. We all lead such busy lives, it’s a challenge to find the time and energy to spend quality time with our dogs.
There’s no magic short-cut to raising a great dog — any more than there is for raising great children. But the effort required comes down to 3 key areas to bring out the best in your companion dog:
- Management — arranging your dog’s environment to physically prevent or avoid behavior problems
- Exercise — meeting your dog’s basic behavioral needs with physical and mental activities
- Training — teaching your dog to understand your expectations and giving him a job to do
If you have a new dog, you may feel that “NO!” is the most frequent word you say. Training him will help you gradually improve his behavior. But until he’s proficient at the skills you’re teaching — like stay, come and leave it — management gives you relief, prevents bad habits, and eliminates the need for corrections or punishment. Examples include:
|Dog’s problem behavior||Your management solution|
|Chews shoes or furniture||Keep shoes in closed closet and provide chew toys|
|Underfoot when you’re busy or pesters you at dinner||Put dog in crate or exercise pen away from table with a bone or Kong to chew|
|Jumps on visitors||Put leash on dog before opening door, and step on it|
|Counter surfs for food||Keep counters clean and food free|
|Runs off when outdoors||Install a fence, and on walks don’t let dog off leash until you’ve taught him to reliably come when called|
Before training, management plays a big role preventing problems and bad habits. As you progress with your dog’s training, management shrinks to a much smaller role — and your dog gains more freedom. A win-win! For example, you can ask her to settle (down-stay) at dinner instead of confining her. You can ask that she sit to greet people instead of using a leash to keep her from jumping. And you can let her off-leash at the park, knowing she’ll come when you call.
Up next in MET: Exercise and Training, including fun, time-saving ways to exercise and train simultaneously!