Exercise and training can help dogs who revert to puppy behaviors

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019


K9 Corner

I got an email this past week asking me to write about National Pet Day, but when I was checking up on it, I discovered that National Pet Day is on April 11, so I will delay writing about it until closer to the time.

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Instead, let’s talk about dogs reverting to puppy tricks like chewing, jumping on people, digging and so forth when you have spent the time with daily training for over a year and a half.

According to Brian Kilcommons, a noted dog trainer and author of “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” — yes, I continue using old training books as long as the methods are still up-to-date — these are common puppy activities and can recur because of boredom, separation anxiety or lack of exercise. Kilcommons recommends early morning exercise of twenty or thirty 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, 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.

Rewarding doesn’t mean food each time. Instead, take a favorite dog toy with you and toss the toy as the reward. It is necessary to rotate the toys so the dog won’t get tired of them. Kilcommons recommends dividing the toys into three piles and using the toys from a single pile each day.

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 allow the dog time to relieve himself before crating unless you are going to be working at home. When I am leaving for up to four hours, I will go with the dog to make sure she understand why she is outside. It is not fair to crate the dog and then let it suffer when it needs to relieve itself. Besides, I find cleaning the crate after an accident to be quite a chore.

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 or any other product that is made specifically to discourage dogs from chewing. Be sure to follow label directions.