Does your dog not know his boundaries? Do you have problems keeping your dog out of the garden? The refrigerator? The neighbor’s lawn? The chicken coop? You may be at wit’s end trying to keep your dog from getting into things. Luckily there are fast and inexpensive ways to ensure your dog remains on his best behavior.
Think Like a Dog
Dogs are a lot like toddlers. If you’ve seen a toddler, you know that they get into everything and put everything in their mouths. Puppies, and to a large extent, dogs, are like that. Dogs don’t stay out of things unless you keep them out and train them to stay out. Look at it from a dog’s perspective. Dogs think that everything is for exploring, playing with, or eating. They don’t understand that you don’t want them to taste test your couch. Even if you express your displeasure, they may think you’re simply displeased at something, but they often don’t equate your anger with the act of chewing up the couch. So your punishment doesn’t fit the crime, because there is no context even when you show the results. Unless you catch them in the act of performing the transgression, they’re clueless.
So, what can you do? The best thing is to prevent them from getting into trouble in the first place. If your dog acts up while you’re gone, consider crate training. Crate training keeps your dog out of trouble while you’re gone or while you cannot watch him. Give him a hard rubber toy filled with goodies such as treats to keep him busy. Here’s how to keep your dog from getting into trouble when he is not in his crate:
Garden of Eating
Your dog finds your garden as interesting as you do. Whether he’s into digging up the loose soil, which feels good on his paws, or munching down on your tomatoes, gardens are tempting areas. Simple fencing around the garden will keep him from going where he’s not supposed to. Better yet, plant a wheatgrass garden for your dog where he can munch and enjoy to his heart’s content.
Maybe your dog snacking on your garden isn’t a problem, but rather your dog raiding the counter is. Counter raiding is common among some breeds and once your dog figures out there’s food there, it’s hard to stop. You’ll need to make your counter clear of anything enticing and teach him that he can’t get anything interesting. When he does try to scope it out, tell him, “no, off!” in a stern tone. If your dog does this only while you aren’t there, try balancing a pyramid of empty pop cans that will not only fall, but make a racket when your dog accidentally knocks them over, thus having your dog punish himself.
If your dog has a garbage gut, you can end his foul raids my moving your trash into a storage area, pantry, or beneath the kitchen sink. If that isn’t an option, try purchasing a stout, self-closing garbage pail that can’t be knocked over easily. If your dog is raiding the trash while you are gone, consider crating him.
A dog raiding the refrigerator might be funny on YouTube, but not so funny in real life. This is a toughie, because once your dog has learned to open the refrigerator, he knows where the food is. Luckily you can stop the raids. First, if you have any towels or other hanging things on the refrigerator door, remove them immediately. Next, install a refrigerator safety latch which is normally for parents of small children, but works well for a pet parent. The latch will keep your pup from opening the door and costs between $5 and $15. After awhile (think years), you may be able to remove the latch, but don’t count on it.
Some cabinets are easy to open with a nudge. Which isn’t great if you have a nosy dog when he can quickly get into your cabinets for a snack. There are childproof cabinet latches which will keep a dog out just as well. They install easily and are easy for you to open.
Dogs love those tasty (to them) cat poop cats leave in their litter box. But not only is it disgusting, but if you use clumping litter, it can be a health hazard and can cause a blocked intestine should your dog devour one. Try cleaning the litter box each day, having the litter box in a place only the cats can get to, or having a concealed and covered litter box.
If your dog is always chasing your hens or stealing their eggs, you need to separate your chickens from your dog. Whether that means a kennel for your dog, a swank coop for your hens, or a dividing fence between the two, your dog won’t be able to harass your chicks or steal eggs, nor will you feel quite as “hen-pecked.”
Is your neighbor always complaining about you dog pooping in the neighbor’s yard? Well, your dog doesn’t know yard boundaries, but you should, so consider fencing your backyard in for your dog. Can’t afford it? You have two more choices: an outside kennel for your dog, or taking your dog for frequent potty breaks on leash. You see, it’s not your dog’s fault he doesn’t get property lines; it’s your fault for letting him run loose. Even in rural areas dogs can run into a number of hazards such as cars, wildlife, livestock, or lead poisoning.
Owning a dog means that you must not only take responsibility for your dog but you must also out think your dog. When you look at situations the way a dog would, it suddenly makes sense why your dog does what he does.
Bring Me Home! Dogs Make Great Pets by Margaret H. Bonham, Wiley and Sons, 2005.
Counter Surfing and Garbage Raiding.