Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "No! No! Bad Dog!" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

No! No! Bad Dog!

By Charlotte Peltz

Mr. Wonderful enters the room and sees Big Dawg chewing on a shoe. Mr. W. shouts, "No, no! Bad Dog!" and B.D. promptly drops the shoe and runs off. Has the dog learned not to chew on shoes? Well, Mr. W. certainly thinks so because the next day he enters the room, sees the same scene and gets really worked into a tizzy. He says to Mrs. W. -- "See how guilty he looks? He knows he shouldn't be chewing on my shoes, but he does it anyhow. This dog is just being spiteful."

Without some clear understanding of how dogs think, and how to properly train to avoid this problem, poor Big Dawg may be headed for a new home. Here, the answer is often -- "We'll find him a home on a ranch."

For starters -- the reason B.D. dropped the shoe is that he was startled by the shouting of his owner. The startle proved to be a distraction that caused the dog to lose interest in the shoe, and the negative sound to the startling actions of his owner surely didn't come off like a welcome, so the dog took off for other parts. But -- the dog did not learn not to chew shoes! Chewing the shoe, actually, was a very pleasant and entertaining activity, and in the boredom caused by being alone too long Big Dawg repeated the pleasant activity. Too bad that his owner doesn't know how to properly greet dogs when returning home, but -- the dog will return to the scene when the mood improves.

So, if hollering at the dog isn't the answer, what is? Teaching the dog what is proper and what is not is a much better way to go. Clients in my classes have a difficult time understanding why I ask them not to use the word "No!" (But, he understands "No," so why should I change?) For starters, it is impossible to "do" No! Which means that the dog really isn't learning what TO DO - which is what we really want.

As for shoes, remote controls, eyeglasses, tissue boxes, etc., separating the dog from these items when you are not around is the ONLY way to prevent destruction. Then, when you have the time and energy, put those items out in conspicuous locations and await the interest of the curious canine. As the dog approaches the item (and well before any pleasure can be derived from contact with it,) command the dog, "Leave it!" and be ready to offer a treat for the success, or a more appropriate item for the dog to chew or play with.

To help secure success with this plan, a distracter is worth having handy. Distracters can be tin cans with a half dozen marbles in them, a spray bottle with water (the type that has a jet stream -- the mister model is useless,) or a rolled-up towel tied with string. If, when the command, "Leave it!" is given, and the dog goes on his merry way towards the desired item, shake the can or squirt the water at him or toss the towel at him. Repeat the command and praise the dog for not continuing with his plan. Note from Charlotte to Joy: "Although I have moved away from aversive items, such as rolled-up towels and shaker cans, I do know that, on occasion, they are by far the lesser of evils that people may end up using."

Now the dog is learning a command that can be transferred over to walks when he is headed for some unspeakably rotten item that catches his attention, for even lifting his nose as he detects interesting smells from the kitchen, or as he begins to head for the shoe [that was] temptingly left in the middle of the living room rug. He obeys the command, he gets praised, and life is a lot more pleasant for everyone.

Dogs are intelligent creatures and need toys, activities and lots of exercise to assure that they can live with us and not use those teeth in natural ways, ways that can be very costly. Not only can it cost us money, but it can cost dogs their lives as they digest the most unimaginable items simply because owners do not really understand their dogs, and make proper arrangements for them when they are away from the scene.

As puppies teethe, their need to chew is unavoidable. Many adult dogs continue the chewing games all their lives, and those lucky dogs that have been provided with a broad selection of chew toys (soft, hard, stuffed things, proper bones, etc.) know to only give attention to those toys. Puppies deprived of toys may never be totally reliable unsupervised in a household situation.

So -- if you return home one day to a puddle or a pile of what was a favorite treasure, before hollering, "No! No! Bad Dog!" give some thought to what you should have done to have prevented the problem. Then, when you figure it out, give yourself a treat!

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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