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5 easy ways to curb dog boredom and destructive behavior

Updated on January 3, 2016

The basics

For those of us who like to adopt older dogs or strays, these pets are usually dropped off for reasons such as a destructible behavior, dangerous encounters and/or home problems. These issues are definitely a concern, but is it worth taking a dog to death row? Understanding and evaluating the dog's patterns and behaviors is an important part of the relationship, but in most cases is always caused by boredom or anxiety, which can be curbed using simple methods. In most cases, it takes a little time and a little money. Patience is the starting point to a lasting relationship and if you really think about it, if the dog is trained at the beginning then there will be several years of good behavior down the road.

This guide will cover some basic methods to curbing dog behavior that work and are very effective in transforming dogs into wonderful pets.

1. Socialization

A bored dog can sometimes be a destructive dog. Giving the dog some form of socialization outside the family can reap tremendous rewards. This can happen during walks, with family and at doggy parks. Take the time to socialize your dog with a dog that has preferred behavior. This will not only give the dog the idea that he is not the only dog, but that he can be part of a pack, in which he is accepted and confident. Allow the dog friendly play time and opportunities to socialize in meaningful ways. This can be as simple as taking him on a vacation with other dogs or dropping him off at a doggy day care for a day. Being there to support the dog's behavior is a plus, though, so don't simply rely on a doggy daycare to do it for you.

2. On and off leash training

You've heard it enough times to give your dog recurring walks, but there's more to it than that if you wish to curb bad dog behavior. The dog needs to understand the relationship and be confident in its owner/pack leader.

The perfect dog is that in which is trusted and can be by your side even when there are plenty of other distractions around. If your dog will bolt with every chance, then chances are they are behavioral problems in the relationship and no time has been taken to train this out of the dog. In picking the right breed, we learned some very good advice from a breeder, "Any instinctual behavior can be changed." That means that a dog can be trained out of any bad habit, even when a dog abandons their master. Make sure that there is an open area with little or no distractions at first, then unleash the dog. Walk slowly and confidently, whistling and correcting when needed. This may or may not be a long process and if you are not the pack leader, then there are different problems that need to be resolved.

Taking the dog on the same path can really help develop trust. They already know the path and understand what the master expects of them.

If they are other family or friends in a home, consider having them walk the dog too. This gives them an understanding that walking is an activity and they should be good no matter who they walk with.

3. Provide a variety of toys

In the same way that people get bored of toys, so do dogs. Some dogs are very good about fetching the same old ball over and over, but when dealing with far more intelligent breeds like Huskys or Collies, it's not going to keep them from challenging you intellectually. Providing a variety can be inexpensive when shopping at places such as Wal-Mart or Amazon to provide reasonably inexpensive distractions.

One such great invention is the food in the bottle toy. When getting up early and leaving for work, consider filling up an empty water bottle with food. Intelligent dogs will work relentlessly to try and get the food out of the small hole. This distraction is almost always a winner, but can be changed up over time by freezing or switching to something larger like a used milk carton. It is especially important that whatever is filled, it is not reminiscent of another object in close proximity that the dog will mistake as a toy.

Always identify with the dog the difference between something they can play with and anything else. "Leave it" and "Drop" are common commands, but can be extended to snacks and toys. If the dog is lunging towards a toy without their master's approval, this can lead to destructive behavior. In the process, attempt to get the dog to stare at a toy for long periods of time until you give them their approval to go for it.

4. Break instinctual behaviors with treats

Most snow dogs are not recommended with small animals, after all they are natural predators of smaller creatures. In experience, we've had situations where this has gone terribly wrong and have had to apologize to neighbors for their missing outdoor cat. But, this can be curbed as well.

There is no "too old to learn new tricks" or "it's in their breed" excuses for bad behavior. Watching pet television programs has shown that some of the worst dogs can be switched over from horrible dogs to dream pets. This is the same with a stray or old dog. If the dog does not have a medical condition that puts them in pain or causes unnatural anxiety, then there really isn't any excuse to not curb the bad behavior with training using patient methods of change. If the dog barks, then tell it not to bark. If the dog bites, then learn the reasons behind the bite (protection, insecurity, not socialized).

Positive reinforcement such as treats or snacks is a simple way to get the dog to do what you wish. Withholding a treat when the desired behavior is not repeated can help break bad behavior. In the case of malamutes and Husky's, pushing their nose down has been a simple indicator that the dog has done bad behavior. If you are unhappy, the dog understands when it's leader has indicated this. No need to display it many different ways, just let the dog know. You're confidence is displayed to them through rewards. Some owners give up and have many reasons to, but continue to make sure there is a lot of positive reinforcement for good behavior. If the dog is laying down nicely when everything else is rowdy, consider giving them a treat or love pet to encourage them that this is preferred behavior. They will repeat this behavior with an expectation that they will continue to be rewarded for it.


5. Time away from home

In many cases, boredom is caused by a lack of change in scenery. Eventually all dogs get used to their surroundings and have a desire for change. Consider taking the dog on a short drive and develop that trust to leave them in the car for short periods of time, considering all conditions around them. Just driving them around gives them some interesting things to see and interact mentally with. In most cases, the dog will come home exhausted from the travel.

Earlier, it was mentioned that some dogs have a desire to bolt. While this can be caused by many factors, one reason is the lack of change. Dogs get bored with the same old routine everyday, so consider including them in convenient trips to the bank or when picking up items from the store. Even consider getting them a small treat for joining you.

We're not out of the woods

As time moves forward, it can sometimes be difficult to give our pet the time they need. Like a wish to go back to school, or learn a language, with the hustle and go of everyday life, good dog training can sometimes be a missed opportunity. If the first several months of the relationship is carved into a trusting one, then the future of that relationship will grow and your workout buddy can also be your movie watching friend. With little or no effort, the dog will live a happy life and provide the value you need in a pet. Learn from your pet and understand what is convenient and what isn't. If patterns arise of undesired behavior, work with them. Take the time with your pet at the beginning.

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