April 12, 2012

‘Devilish’ puppy has freedom he hasn’t earned

George describes his beagle puppy as “devilish.”

George describes his beagle puppy as “devilish.”

George’s list of troubles include having to replace three TV remotes due to Trio chewing on them, trying in vain to get socks, toilet paper, dish towels and his checkbook out of Trio’s mouth before they are destroyed, and having to drive down to the end of his cul-de-sac to pick up Trio after he’s escaped upon opening the garage door.

Wow, George, Trio really has gotten the best of you.

Your troubles seem somewhat related, as they all stem from Trio having too much personal freedom that he hasn’t yet earned. In addition, it seems like you are so busy doing damage control, you haven’t had the time to set yourself and your environment up for prevention of these issues. So, place Trio in his crate while you read this, and then prepare yourself for “Puppy Management 101.”

First, let’s be clear in that all of Trio’s behavior is normal. Puppies have big energy bursts throughout the day, are interested in putting everything into their mouths and are always looking for something new and appealing to do. As Trio’s owner, it’s your job to steer him toward acceptable things to chew on and interact with. Keep a solid inventory of ideal puppy items: chewy items and numerous toys with various textures. These should be rotated and offered any time you sense that Trio needs something to focus and chew on — before he chooses an item on his own.

Second, Trio should have access only to the room you are in. You can accomplish this by placing a baby gate up to prevent him from going from room to room, or you can have him attached to you via a 6-foot leash. In any case, you should be able to visibly see what Trio is doing in the house at all times.

Third, “puppy-proof” your home just as you would for a baby, but with canine safety in mind. Part of making sure Trio doesn’t grow into a habitual chewer of human items means that he should have no access to them as a puppy. So keep your socks up off the floor, close the bathroom doors so he can’t get to the toilet paper, and place dish towels, checkbooks and anything else of value out of reach.

No matter how diligent you are at puppy-proofing your home, there will still be instances of Trio getting hold of something off-limits. How you respond will affect whether or not he continues to do this. If you are in the habit of going after Trio to get an item away from him, Trio has effectively taught you how to play chase! You have other options: If he grabs an off-limit item, do not react with any excitement. Instead, slowly move toward the refrigerator or treat jar, and start to sweetly talk about “cookies!” This will likely bring Trio back to you, and then an exchange can be made — cookie for human item. Another option would be to quietly and slowly move indirectly toward Trio, until you are able to step on the leash that is attached to him, thus preventing him from running away from you. Then you can calmly trade items with him.

Trio hasn’t yet earned the freedom of being off leash when outdoors. So make sure you don’t open the garage door until Trio is on his leash. But definitely do take him out in the front yard to play with him; part of preventing a dog from always trying to escape is to allow him to become familiar with the outdoors under your supervision.

Finally, George, get started in a positive-based training program. Trio needs to learn the value of paying attention to you and your directions — because all good things should come from you, and you need to learn how to communicate your wishes to Trio instead of just dealing with his mistakes. In short, a dialogue between you needs to be created, so you can direct Trio down the path of behavior that you desire, and then let Trio reap the rewards that come with polite compliance.

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