Bite the bad habits
Perhaps two of the most annoying habits of our pooches are digging in the garden and begging for food. Here’s how to handle these behaviours.
Many of us would have tripped in our dog’s latest backyard excavation, or had our carefully tended vegetable gardens destroyed. All this is due to the digging behaviour of dogs that is sometimes annoying and destructive.
There are a number of reasons a dog will dig, and most of them are easily fixed. These include:
- The most common reason for digging is boredom. Dogs dig because it is highly entertaining when they have nothing else to do.
- Sometimes, the dog has lot of pent-up energy, which he burns while digging.
- They may also dig because of anxiety, in an attempt to escape, or to cool off in hot weather.
Exercise…a cure!: The first step in preventing digging is to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. Many dogs will become destructive if they are not mentally and physically stimulated. Provide plenty of activity that includes human interaction – take lots of walks, play ball, or go for a swim at a dog-friendly lake or beach. This satisfies your dog’s need for attention and burns off excess energy, meaning he’ll be more likely to behave when left on his own.
Alone…but not lonely: When you have to leave your dog alone, provide plenty of toys that will stimulate him, and take them away when you come home. A Kong toy stuffed with treats entertain and keep them busy for a long time.
Bad habits…die hard: If your dog continues to dig, here are a few preventive measures:
- If your dog is only digging in one area, such as your flower garden, try putting up a barrier that keeps him out of your prized petunias.
- Turn on your sprinklers. Dogs don’t like to be sprayed, and yours will learn to stay out of the garden if he gets wet every time he goes near it.
- Offer him his own sandbox or a corner of the yard, where he can dig to his heart’s content. Hide treats below the surface to encourage him to use his own area.
- Make sure your dog has ample shelter and plenty of cool water to drink as he may be trying to escape the heat by digging.
- As a last resort, you can place solid dog waste into the holes he’s dug, especially if he returns to the same spot time and again. It may not be the most suitable solution, but it will prevent him from digging there any further.
Begging… who taught it?
There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down with the family to enjoy a meal, only to be interrupted by your dog’s whining as he begs for food. But begging is not a natural doggie behaviour. It is taught entirely by well-meaning humans who do not realize they are doing more harm to the dog than good. We feed our dogs table scraps to satisfy our own emotional needs, not realizing how damaging it can be for the dog. Yes, he appreciates the morsels of food you throw his way, but in the long run, these well-intentioned treats hurt him. Knowing he can beg for food – and get it – only encourages your dog to continue the behaviour. It is extremely bad also for his health and weight.
Table manners: In order to get your dog to learn some table manners, you must stop feeding him from the table altogether. Or from your plate or the kitchen! He must know he cannot eat what the rest of the family is eating. If you give into him just once, you only keep his hopes alive and encourage further begging.
Human food…unhealthy for pooches: Not only does eating human food encourage your dog to beg, but also many foods are dangerous for him to ingest. Chocolate, grapes, and raisins are all human food items that convert to a toxin in your dog’s system. Effects of eating these foods can range from stomach upset to death. Not all dogs react the same, so as a rule, it is best to keep these foods out of your dog’s reach altogether. Besides, a dog’s stomach is not designed to digest most human foods, either. Too much of an unfamiliar diet can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, and even skin and coat problems.
Early training…a must: If you are raising a puppy, start him out right and feed him only high quality dog foods and treats designed for dogs. Teach him from the start that his food and your food are not the same. If he never eats from your plate, he’ll never know to ask.
Ignore those pleading eyes: If, however, you are trying to fix a begging problem that has already been created, you will need to stand firm in your resolve and not give in to those desperately pleading eyes. It’s hard to do, but it really is for the best. Stop giving him any human food. Don’t even put it into his food bowl. Make him eat his dog food. Teaching him to eat his own food will keep him from begging for yours.
Thus, a few simple things can make your pooch better mannered and of course healthy for life!