You adopted an adorable puppy who was in need of a good home. The puppy has become like another member of the family, and is loved and adored by all! All of the things you love about a new pet are there, the love, the cuddles, the house training is no problem, the pup is great in the house, and likes to go everywhere with you. It is a perfect love affair, until the one day you rush out the door, and your adorable ball of fuzz, normally perfectly well behaved in the house, decides for some unexpected reason, to express herself by targeting and destroying some personal item of yours. In this case, maybe your personal notebook which holds many of of your important documents. Or maybe it’s your new favorite pair of shoes…
You come home, exasperated by the finding of the shredded, difficult if not impossible to replace, item. You are understandably angry! And hurt! How could she do this to you? Why did he did this to you? “What did I do wrong?”, you ask yourself. And what do I do now? You don’t have time for this! This is what I wanted to avoid when I chose to get a dog…
You know from reading books and reading on line about dog training, that dogs need a certain amount of exercise, play time, and toys. You have provided those, yet you still find yourself frustrated. And what about that lag time between when the action happens and you come home to find it? Do they understand why for once you are NOT happy to see them when you got home?
As the Life Coach for People with Pets, let me help you sort through the human aspect of this first, and there in you may find the answers you seek, without spending a lot more time and money.
First of all, it is OK, and natural, to be angry. Yes there are some who say, that if you don’t catch the dog IN THE ACT of destroying something (or peeing on something), they are not “smart” enough to make the association between you being angry now, and what they did perhaps hours ago. So what are you supposed to do? Come in, see the mess, ignore it and move on? Well then how in the world can you set the odds in your favor it will never happen again?
Let me ask you this, if you came home from work one day, and your roommate who does not speak much English had taken scissors and cut all your sheets into shreds, would you just come in, and smile and act like nothing is wrong? Of course not! And so therefore I plead the case that yes, you should ‘tell’ your dogs that you are not pleased, when you come home.
No this does not mean it is ok to rub their nose in it, ever. No more than you would grab your roommate by the back of the neck and throw him down and rub his nose in it. Yet it is natural and normal to put your hands on your hips, look at your roommate, or your dog in this case, look at the mess, and sadly shake your head in despair. Violence is never the answer. Simple communication is enough.
Remember, dogs are much better readers of body language, than us. Without the benefit of complex words to convey a precise meaning, dogs have developed a very keen sense of reading body language. Your expressions, your tone of voice, even your odor, all of these things your dog uses to intimately care about you, the most important thing in their life, the giver of toys, food, leash walks, and love. Your dog probably knows you better than anyone, especially that roommate! And dogs are not encumbered by worrying about yesterday, or tomorrow, or a few hours ago, they have forgiven and forgotten, and are ready to enjoy the next moments of life with you. Which is something we can probably all learn from a little bit.
So, the first step is be yourself! Tell your dog how you feel! By literally verbalizing WHY what they did was so hurtful to you, right now as soon as you discover the situation. No of course they don’t understand your words. But don’t clean up the mess in silent anguish. The whole time “explain” to the dog exactly what what they did was such a big deal to you. That was my homework I worked hours on. That was my grandmother’s antique rug you pooped on. I worked for a whole month to pay for those shoes! You are not nearly as good at interpreting body language as dogs are, however, when we as humans ‘verbalize’ what we are feeling, we cannot help but express ourselves in our body language, and our dogs CAN understand that. So you will be teaching your dog something about you, while all the neighbors think your nuts because you are talking to a dog…
However, will that be enough to make sure it does not happen again? Maybe. This will vary by age, breed, and relationship. Some dogs (and people) are so sensitive and in-tune to each other, that just this one act, ‘talking’ about the problem, is enough to keep it from happening again. This is the however, the exception, and not the rule. With a puppy you have to assume, that although they will understand there is some momentary displeasure in your relationship, the motivation to chew that thing up at the time (my gums are itchy), the anguish they feel at the loss your presence (will you ever come back to me), their need to eliminate the pressure in their bladder, is more powerful than some nebulous repercussions in the future. Recall that whole ‘living in the now” thing they are so good at, and that we could all probably learn from a little.
So what can you do, besides clean up the mess and talk to yourself?
Remember one very simple principal in dog training,
if there is something that is happening, that you don’t want it to happen, then you can’t let it happen.
Ok brilliant, thanks a lot. How do I do that? Brainstorm and think of a realistic solution for your individual situation. Put the pup in her crate with a favorite chew toy, install a camera system in the home and monitor them (rush in to catch them in the act), leave them out in the yard when you are not home, confine them to the kitchen, never leave them alone, install baby gates, clean up everything they could possibly want to tear up, hire a pet sitter, take them with you, etc. One of these, or none of these and something else, will be the right answer for you and your dog.
Puppies outgrow many of these behaviors in time, as they mature. The problem is that each and every time they pup makes a bad choice, and get some sort of reward for it (my bladder is less uncomfortable, my teeth itch less, my frustration is less because I took it out on your notebook), they usually have to be faced with, and choose NOT to repeat that same behavior, at least 10 TIMES to unlearn what they learned was a pleasant thing! Imagine that you got free candy from a vending machine one time. You are likely to try to again, probably a few times, to see if it you might get that lucky again. Your pup is the same way. So, if something happens, that you don’t want it to, again, see the one and only rule above. If you are still frustrated, hire a positive dog trainer. Simple as that, results guaranteed.
Without a complex spoken language to communicate with our animals, and a strong sense of living in the now, we have to keep it as simple and black and white as possible. This makes the for the easiest, fastest, least expensive (no need to buy new shoes), safest (no chewed up electric wires), healthiest and most positive type of training one can do (think, no negative consequences because the bad thing does not happen again).
You have treated your beloved family member with kindness and respect, you have preserved, and even enhanced, the bond that you share, and, you have tapped into the best science has to offer about how animals learn and think, and you can rest assured there is no better, kinder, gentler, faster way to teach your loved one. It really is, just that simple.
On that note, I am DrQ, and the rest, is up to you!