Throughout the years, I have received a few calls the Monday after Thanksgiving from people who are appalled by their adolescent dog’s behavior as their guests arrived. In fact, their whole day had been compromised by the activities of their 10 month old Labs, Goldens, Bulldogs, etc. During the conversation, it is established that they went to puppy school, then they didn’t do anything else. Six months later they make the phone call to the trainer, me. I adore adolescent Labradors, I’ve had some myself. I think of them as “floppy”. They flop around the house, they flop around the neighborhood and everywhere they flop, they do so with enormous energy and endurance. AND when they don’t get enough exercise and when they don’t get to use their brains and their innate intelligence, they are often unbearable. Not just Labs, but any dog, especially any young, healthy adolescent dog. So after this particular Lab knocked over Aunt Tillie in the doorway, and stole a plate of cookies…….
Well, more holidays are coming, which can mean more company, and it is very possible to go from knocking over guests and stealing food, to sitting quietly on a mat and greeting Aunt Tillie with a sit and a hand shake. Here’s how:
- Get your dog some exercise. Not just a walk around the block, but some good old-fashioned running, playing, chasing or exploring. Even if you’re in the city you can find some open space. Parks, beaches, forest preserves, backyards with dog friends can be most fun. If your dog is not an off-leash kind of guy, get a long cotton lead and let him explore and play with some distance. When walking your dog with a long lead in appropriate areas, he can trek many more miles than you, by just coming back to you and then taking off for another treasure hunt. Unless your dog is actively playing in your yard with another canine or human, your yard is not exercise. Your Back Yard: Does Your Dog Love It?
- Train your dog everywhere. There are training opportunities everywhere, in your home, outside, in the car, at the playground or baseball fields (in the winter). Anywhere your dog is with you and awake you can teach and practice behaviors. In fact, it’s so important to let your dog practice his repertoire in as many different places and scenarios as possible. Training and using his brain is great exercise for your pooch. Have you ever seen a human student come home from school after taking a test? They are exhausted and often so are our dogs. With positive training, our canine partners love their training, go “to work” with enthusiasm, and give it their all.
There are many brain games and interactive feeding choices in the dog world these days. Let your dog’s meal time be a 45 minute exercise routine. Check out Frozen KONGS or a similar toy for food stuffing for raw or canned food. Feed dry food or kibble or just play games with a Nina Ottoson Pet Activity Game or shop.kyjen.com or other good quality games. With no resource guarding issues in your home or for single dogs, you can choose a space and make meal time a wonderland of a “find it” game.
- Make a plan for your dog if you are too busy during the holidays to give him the special attention he’s going to need. Holidays are stressful for everyone, sooner AND later it trickles down to your pooch. If you can’t spend quality time with your young dog, hire a professional dog walker or day trainer who comes to your home for some one-on one quality time. Many people take advantage of doggie day care if you have a well socialized dog. Make sure you get great references and check out facilities personally. Good day care is hard to find but it is out there. It’s important to do your homework finding one. Remember, when entrusting your best friend to another human’s care, after the references and the interviews, trust your instincts. It it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If finances are short, find a friend or friend’s dog to help with exercise. Set up play dates with neighborhood well socialized dogs. If your dog is excellent with ALL humans, see if there’s a young human you know who loves dogs and wants to be a vet when they grow up. Maybe they can work playing fetch while you supervise, and get your wrapping done, or find a college student who jogs. These options can be much easier on the pocket-book. Always trust your instinct and listen to your dog. He will tell you if he’s having fun or not, and many times will let you know how he feels about the person.
Whatever is best for your particular situation you can start to make it happen for the next holiday. Of course nothing is fixed tomorrow, but if you’re not proactive now, nothing happens at all. With consistent positive training and management, you can definitely make some strides for this year and your dog can be a superhero by next Thanksgiving.