Pet Care Advice

We all want our dogs to behave themselves, and it certainly makes life a lot easier when they do! Understanding why our dogs do the things we see as bad, and getting to know some kind and motivational ways to steer them away from this behaviour, can do wonders for both your life and your dog’s. Read on for tips on dealing with specific problems. A more harmonious relationship with your pet awaits!

Digging

Dogs often dig out of boredom. To stop this, consider constructing a small sandpit in an out-of-the-way part of your garden. To capture your dog’s attention, hide a few chew toys or a bone under the surface.

Barking

As a dog’s main way of communicating, you have to expect a few barks, but when it becomes an issue, deal with it with training. Use rewards and positive reinforcement to teach your dog to bark when you say “speak”; then you’ll be able to introduce a “quiet” command to switch off the barking too

Pulling

Train your dog to walk with you, rather than pulling you, when out and about. Attach a suitably strong leather, nyon or rope lead to their collar and use a favourite toy or a treat to keep them by your side. As you walk, use their name and the command “heel” to keep their attention on you. If they get too far ahead, suddenly stand still and say “no” before encouraging them back to your side. Be consistent with this training method and you’ll see results. Varying your walking speed will help to keep them interested, and keep their focus on you. You may also consider using a harness while you train them out of the habit, as this will distribute weight evenly around your dog’s shoulders when they pull, rather than just the neck.

Eating Plants

This problem is often a result of dogs wanting to explore, but you can discourage it. Ensure a few of your dog’s toys are in the garden while they’re there, and give enough attention to keep them entertained so they don’t seek out their own fun. It’s important to remove any risks to your dog’s health if they have a habit of eating things in the garden: weed-killers, insecticidal sprays, slug pellets, ponds, cocoa shells in mulch and electric cables supplying water features are just some potential dangers. Also ask your vet for advice on plants that can be harmful to your dog, such as the laurel bush.

Nervous Dogs

If a dog’s early-life experiences are limited, and they’re not exposed to many different situations, they could become nervous in later life when they find themselves in unexpected circumstances. If this becomes a problem, these are few petcare advice:

  • Place an item they seem fearful of in your home so they can explore it in their own time, and in a safe environment. If it is a home appliance like a vacuum cleaner, scatter a few treats around it so they’re encouraged to investigate.
  • If they’re fearful of other dogs, arrange for them to meet dogs you know to be friendly. This will help them learn to communicate with other dogs properly, and build their confidence.
  • When they encounter an object they are fearful of, or another dog, reward them for staying calm. This can be done with treatsor by producing their favourite toy.
  • Consider taking them along to a training class where they can improve their behaviour further.

Teaching your dog to sit

Teaching your dog to “sit” is one of the easiest commands, and one of the most useful.

  • Standing or sitting in front of your dog, hold a treat to its nose and raise it up and behind their head.
  • As you do so, your dog’s hind quarters should start to drop instinctively. Say “Sit!” clearly, and put your hand on their back to guide them down if necessary.
  • Reward your pet with a treat and plenty of praise.

Repeat this training often and in small, successful bursts, rather than over and over again. Continue outside of the house too, to really strengthen your dog’s response.

Teaching your dog to lie down

Teaching your dog the “down” command is similar to “sit”, using a treat to guide their movement.

  • Start with “Sit!” to get your dog in the right position.
  • Sitting or kneeling in front of your dog, hold a treat to its nose and guide it down towards the floor, between his front legs. Your dog’s nose should follow it all the way down.
  • Say “Down!” clearly, and pull the treat away slowly, towards you. To follow the treat, your dog will ease itself into the down position.
  • Reward with a treat and plenty of praise.

Move away from your dog to indicate that they can get up. Repeat this 15–20 times during a training session, and be patient — some dogs may take a few days before making the jump from the second to the third step.

Teaching your dog to come when called

Teaching your dog to come to you when called enables you to call them for dinner, and to let them explore more freely when out on walks. You will need a whistle for this training exercise.

  • Each time you feed your dog, blow three short blows on your whistle. Over a few weeks your dog will start to associate this noise with food, and eventually will come for dinner when it hears that sound.
  • When your dog comes at the sound of the whistle, take them out to the garden and blow the whistle, followed by your dog’s name and “Come!” in an encouraging voice. Reward your dog each time they come to you.
  • When you take this training outside the garden, use a retractable lead to give them some restricted freedom at first. When you call them, adopt a friendly voice and body position — crouching down to their level and offering a treat will encourage them more easily.

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