‘There are no such thing as bad dogs, only bad owners’, so the saying goes.
Relax! I work with a huge range of dogs and owners, and the answers are not as simple as blaming the owner. Sometimes your dog is just too much of a livewire for you! Is that anyone being ‘bad’?
Do you have a dog that tends to run around the walls rather than walking sedately? Is your dog the one that bounds around the park crashing bodily into the other dogs present? Do you notice other owners stop and grip their own dogs’ leads more tightly when yours appears?
If so, don’t panic. Sit down, grab a pen and paper, and make a list.
Firstly; what age is your dog? If he is 3 or under, this could be sheer youthful exuberance. We often expect dogs to be fully mature by the time they are 1 year old, but this is not a standard measure. Adolescence continues beyond this age. Some dogs, just like some children, are bursting with energy! This doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. It might mean you need to be more vigilant, exercise your dog’s brain and body more than any dog you’ve owned in the past, and any of your neighbouring dogs too. If needed, employ a dog walker to get you through this stage. Above all, stay patient, and hang on in there. You chose the dog, now work with what you have!
Activity time: If your dog is always sniffing and hunting on walks, why not use this skill to give him a tiring activity that suits this ability. Rather than just throwing a toy, try hiding it and sending him over to find it? Let him see you hide it first for a few games, to help him learn what is expected. Gradually, hide it in more difficult to find places. Don’t forget where you put it! For more of challenge, ask a friend to hide the toy so that you and your active dog can play search dog. Best of all, run and hide yourself so that your dog can come and find you. Search and rescue!
Exhausted, but the dog keeps going? The key is to give your dog’s brain an activity that doesn’t mean you have to match their energy. Simple, cheap ideas include getting an old blanket or curtain and rumple up some treats inside, getting your pooch to rummage through it to find them. Slightly messier is to hide his toys or dinner or treats inside several cardboard boxes, and let him dig them out while you sit and drink your cup of tea.
It’s worth winding your dog down with a bit of calm, relaxing training. Teach your dog to lie down on a special mat or bed, rewarding him every few moments for staying there. Before long he will be concentrating hard on staying, and will be mentally worn out.
From crazy to sane again!