K9 Corner: Retraining a trained dog
By HELEN PALMER
I call this “Retraining your trained dog.” So, what happens when your dog reverts to old puppy tricks such as chewing, jumping on people, digging and so forth?
When I heard this complaint, I had to review my books on dog behavior because the dog in question had been in daily training for over a year.
According to Brian Kilcommons, a noted dog trainer and author of “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” these common puppy activities can recur because of boredom, separation anxiety or lack of exercise. He recommends early morning exercise of 20 or 30 minutes and he means the equivalent of a gallop or a hard game of “fetch.”
Jumping low or medium low jumps is another great way to tire the dog. After the gallop, run through the obedience exercises of heel, sit, and stand; come when called, finish and end with a long sit (one minute) and long down (three minutes).
You might change the routine by teaching the dog to stop and sit at curbs until you give the release command. Guide dogs for the blind are trained to signal a curb to the owner by sitting and family pets can learn this too. Who knows, this exercise might save your dog’s life one day.
Kilcommons feels that the obedience session will “tire the dog mentally, reassure him of your leadership and start the day off right.” Be sure to make this morning assignment FUN. Praise and reward your dog during the entire period. (Take your coffee with you if you are like me and need it that early.)
Rewarding doesn’t mean food each time. Instead take a favorite dog toy with you and toss the toy as the reward or give a happy rub as you praise. It is necessary to rotate the toys so the dog won’t get tired of them.
Finally, Kilcommons suggests crating the dog that has reverted to old habits, just so the unwanted activity will not become the latest new habit. The crating serves to protect your rugs and furniture as well as protect the dog.
Be sure to provide fresh cool water in the crate and to allow the dog time to relieve itself before crating unless you are going to be working at home and can stop to give your dog a break. When I am leaving for up to four hours, I will go with the dog to make sure she understands why she is outside. If I have to be gone longer, I arrange for the pets to be taken out at regular periods. It is not fair to crate the dog and then let it suffer when it needs to relieve itself.
The last thing I would do if I were the owner of the dog in question is spray the rugs and furniture that she is “nibbling” on with Bitter Apple, a product made to discourage dogs from chewing. Remember to test the fabric in an inconspicuous spot to make sure there is no color change.