Many behaviours that we would label as negative, for example chewing, excessive barking, and digging, aren’t often welcomed inside a house, with many of us preferring they were kept to more appropriate times and place, if at all. However, many behaviours we see as problematic are perfectly natural to our pets, with many breeds hardwired to want to exhibit them. Rather than trying to restrict them, there are often simple things we can do to redirect their behaviours to somewhere or something more suitable.
Chewing: Dogs love a good chew, be it to help with teething or jaw-strengthening, out of boredom, frustration, an abundance of energy, or one of many other reasons. It’s a natural behaviour for dogs, and there are a number of steps we can take to save our shoes from a shredded fate. Providing high quality chew toys, such as a KONG filled with peanut butter, is one way to tempt them away from the table leg. Keeping good oral hygiene will remove the need to chew as relief from dental discomfort. Ensuring they’re given plenty of opportunities for both physical exercise and mental stimulation will mean that time at home is used for napping, rather than gnawing.
Barking: While dogs communicate largely through body language, barking can be another tool to communicate with both other canines as well as humans. Too much barking can become quite problematic though, affecting our sleep and annoying our neighbours. Figuring out why your dog is barking is essential in working out what to do about it. For example, if you notice your dog is barking when it sees other dogs walk past the house, a change in fencing might block them from seeing this.
Digging: This is a very natural behaviour for many animals, including squirrels, foxes, badgers and, of course, dogs. Digging can be done for fun, our of boredom, to hide food and resources, or for any number of reasons. Some breeds of dog have been bred to be extremely efficient at digging, so finding ways to minimise the behaviour can be an uphill battle. Ensuring they’ve got plenty of other avenues to burn energy will help, but providing specific surfaces for digging, such as a sandpit, or a regular trip to the beach, will give them ways to fulfil that need, without ruining the flower bed.
Fabric sucking: This behaviour is believed to result from dogs being weaned too early, and can easily become a compulsive behaviour. Giving the dog something to occupy him, such as a puzzle feeder, chew toy or treat-filled KONG may help to reduce the need to exhibit this behaviour.
Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home strongly recommend using positive enforcement in trying to address behaviours we’d like to minimise.
Kirsty McGinley, the Home’s Welfare Standards Coordinator, says:
“Rather than reprimanding a dog for doing something that comes naturally to it, we prefer to show it what we want, and reward the dog for doing that behaviour instead. In recent years, research has backed up the idea that dogs respond better to rewards, rather than punishment, which can instead bring about other problem behaviours.”
However, making simply changes to the dog’s environment or routine won’t always fix the problem, and there are countless other behaviours a dog may exhibit that we feel needs to be addressed. Enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer or behavioural expert may be a helpful solution.
If you’d like recommendations of trainers and behaviourists, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 0131 669 5331 or by visiting us at 26 Seafield Road East, Edinburgh.