Are you challenging your dog?

One of the biggest problems that families experience when integrating a dog into their life and home is dealing with destructive behaviors. There can be a lot of underlying reasons why your dog may be damaging your furniture, shoes, etc, (be sure to talk to your veterinarian and trainer to rule out possibilities such as separation anxiety, training issues or health issues) but an often overlooked reason behind these behaviors is simply that your dog may need more challenges in their daily life. Bottom line - they're bored!

Just think for a minute about all the things that a dog used to do around a home. We specifically bred these animals to not only be our companions, but also to guard us, work livestock, eliminate rodents, help us catch our food, pull sleds and more! Over time, however, the daily routine of many people and the lifestyles lived by them and their dogs has changed dramatically. We now ask young, energetic dogs to live the human equivalent of a "retirement lifestyle" and they often end up bored, frustrated, and with more energy than they know what to do with even though their DNA is telling them they should have a daily purpose.

In addition to the regular walks we take our dogs on, one method I've used to help tackle this issue, with my own dogs as well as those of my clients, is to find a new job for the dogs to do. I also often recommend that owners take a path that many zoos take with their captive animals and provide enrichment activities throughout their day (this works particularly well with my Husky).  What I recommend to clients is try to find ways to make the dogs work for their food or to feel like they are helping you and, when possible, try to align these activities with what your dog's breed was originally meant for. Carrying a backpack, following scent trails in the back yard, carrying a toy while they follow you and working their food out of puzzle toys are all excellent options for this. These suggestions may sound like very small changes, but they can yield HUGE results and create dramatic differences in the behavior that you see daily from your friend. My own dog now brings me empty toys to refill and ignores the food I put in her dish!

If you're not sure where to start, do a little reading on your dog's breed(s) and see what activities they are naturally prone too. Then try to think about how you can integrate similar activities into your lifestyle and daily routine. Still stumped? Just ask your trainer for suggestions and they'll probably talk your ear off in excitement with a list of suggestions - I know I will!