Helping Destructive Behavior in Dogs

New techniques and products offer hope for owners of destructive dogs.

By | Posted: Mon Sep 16 00:00:00 PDT 2002

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"Play dates" with other dogs offer the best way for dogs to fill those needs, Kovary said. "They are used far too infrequentl y but, providing the other dogs are compatible and the play is supervised, they are a wonderful way to turn a hyper Ricochet Rabbit kind of dog into a real couch potato."

Schultz agreed. "Play dates are one of the best ways for your dog to blow off steam," she said. "Especially in adolescence, when dogs are typically at their most destructive, constructive play with other dogs can help relieve boredom and give your dog plenty of exercise."

But make sure all play is supervised. "You don't just turn three dogs loose in the yard and go have a kaffeeklatsch," Schultz said. "Dogs need supervision just like children do. The play can turn aggressive very quickly, so owners need to periodically give their pets a timeout. Call them over and spend a few minutes getting them to relax before sending them back out to play." Owners also need to take into consideration the play style of the individual dog, Schultz said. "Bulldogs and related breeds do a lot of body slamming in their play. Sight hounds like to chase each other around in big circles, and retrievers love to mouth wrestle. You need to find out what play style your dog uses and bring in those kinds of buddies."

Once owners establish a good exercise regimen for their dogs, crate training becomes more effective because a well-exercised animal is calmer, Schultz said. Crate training isn't new, but it's gaining importance every year because of its effectiveness.

"Crate training works if the dog gets some good exercise both before and after a crate session," Schultz said. "It is especially important for puppies. The dog needs to say to himself, 'I don't have play opportunities outside these confines, so I guess I'd better learn to play with these toys I have right here.' "

Canine behaviorists are learning the importance of confining spaces balanced with exercise and lots of positive feedback in training destructive dogs, Schultz said, and much of what they learn comes from watching the way people raise children effectively.

"No mother would think of leaving a toddler loose in the house while she takes a shower," Schultz said. "You confine the child to the playpen or the crib so they won't race around the house grabbing everything they can while you're out of the room. Sound familiar? Crates, like cribs, are a safety place."

But don't confine dogs to a crate for long periods or as a punishment. The crate is a time-out area, not a prison.

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