If your housekeeping style is more obsessive-compulsive than freestyle, you have it made when it comes to controlling your environment.
Pick It Up!
Just picking up all of the bits and pieces that you might usually leave lying around during your dog’s early exploration will go a long way to preventing both destruction and the habit of destruction. Personal items like kids’ toys, shoes, and dirty laundry are especially attractive targets of destruction, as are items your dog can shred, like newspaper and toilet paper. Unless your idea of the perfect full-time job is picking up tiny bits of shredded tissues or sewing the eyes back on your kid’s stuffed animals (if you’re lucky, and not soothing your child because the puppy chewed the head off her favorite doll), you’ll be well served to control your dog’s environment.
If you have a puppy or adolescent dog in your house, it’s time to puppy-proof and put the priceless family heirlooms away for a while, or at least out of your puppy’s reach. Candy dish on the coffee table? Not now. Scavengers that they are, untrained dogs will naturally explore trashcans, tables, and countertops for food. They don’t know that these activities aren’t acceptable in a human household until you teach them. As far as they’re concerned, unguarded food is free for the taking, and who can resist a free meal? Even one successful counter-surfing venture is enough for some dogs to never forget without some serious intervention. Avoiding the problem by making sure food and trash are securely stored is imperative for your dog’s behavior and health.
Is your puppy teaching you tricks? If she’s stealing household items, and you’re running around waving your arms and screaming after her, she’s just taught you to play “Look at what I can make my owner do!” Dogs think this chase game is great and will repeat it as long as you keep “playing.” Avoid the game altogether and keep attractive but forbidden items out of reach.
Give Your Dog a Job
If your dog were living in the wild, she’d have a job. Every day, she would spend the majority of her time and energy out scavenging and hunting, and probably would end up with just enough food to do it again the next day.
Frustration and Boredom
Like most people today, pet dogs tend to be overfed and under-exercised. Add in selective breeding, creating dogs that are bred to hunt or do other work virtually all day. We bring them home, leave them alone with nothing to do all day, and then expect them to lie quietly by our feet as we watch TV at night. It’s no mystery why our dogs are bouncing off the walls: they’re bored, frustrated, and need a job.
Creative Job Hunting
If you don’t give your dog a job, she’ll have to create her own, and you probably aren’t going to be overjoyed with her choices, which might include classics like Redecorating the House, Digging Your Own Pool, or Keeping the Evil Delivery Men Away. The jobs you find for your dog might be very simple, like making her work for her food or other things she likes. They could also be very elaborate, like teaching her to pick up all of her (or the kids’) toys.
Just giving dogs simple tasks to perform throughout the day makes some of them happy, while others need more physical jobs. Regular obedience training is a job every dog can do and will benefit from. For a truly happy and fulfilled dog, find out what your dog was bred to do and do it. Take your dog hiking or swimming. Have a good game of Frisbee.
Whether for eventual competition or just for fun, find a dog-training school and train your dog in a more distracting environment. Even better, one that offers therapy-dog training, agility, rally, or tracking can help you keep your dog happy, busy and out of trouble indefinitely. The point is, do something!