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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hot Diggity Dog! Get ready for Spring!

Before I continue with today’s blog article I would like to say thank you to those who have shown just how much they appreciate Steeler’s work as a Therapy dog by putting him on a billboard. This is one of many firsts for him! When Steeler came back to me years ago he was a handful. He kept my body in black and blue marks for months with his outrageous behavior. I am proud of how far he has come through much work, love, and guidance. It is the public he greets on a weekly basis I believe, that keeps him in check and makes him the happy go lucky guy he is. I also thank the family that probably made the hardest decision in their life when they returned him to me.
Toward the right of the blog you will see Steeler sitting proudly under his billboard, drool and all, and we look forward to attending yet another children’s fair. This year we’ll take movies!

Hot Diggity Dog! Get ready for Spring!

So, you’ve decided to do some gardening in the North forty and you’re struggling with that old rusted wheelbarrow that you inherited from your father’s father, which is now piled high with a heavy load of dirt. All of a sudden it starts to lean a little to the left, then a little to the right, and your struggle is not due to the heavy load, no, you are strong enough to handle that, but it is due to the rusted bolts on the original tire which is now flat, however it is the glue that holds the wheelbarrow together!

Just fifty more yards to your destination, and you are there, home free! Your eyes narrow and hold their gaze upon the spot where you intend to dump the load of dirt, when all of a sudden, plop! You struggle to keep the wheelbarrow upright, but you can just see it deep inside your soul like a slow motion movie. Going, going, gone! You have inadvertently hit one of the holes to China in which that damn dog of yours dug! Of course, on any other day, Fido is the love of your life, your cuddle bug, your big oaf. Today though, he is that damn dog!

So let the analyzing begin! Dogs dig for many reasons but the number one cause is boredom and here I go again speaking from a trainer’s perspective. Proper time and energy spent with your dog can help, really! Providing your dog with brain stimulating toys such as stuffed Kongs, treat dispensing balls, talking balls, or giggle balls can also help when you are not around to keep a close eye on him. When you are home to watch him check out
Nina Ottosson's interactive Dog toys , these are pricy but if you are handy you can make them yourself. Most of these toys can be found in major pet stores or pet catalogs. In fact, interactive toys are gaining in popularity which is a good thing.

Working daily on obedience training can help as well. This keeps the dog’s mind active and makes it think, and the dog that has to think, is a tired dog. Tired dogs of course, are good dogs!

Yeah, yeah, I know, sit, down, stay, heel, over and over again is sometimes boring when the dog already knows all of those commands. Well, if it’s boring for you I wonder how boring it is for the dog. Don’t be afraid to spice it up a bit, teach some hide and seek games, high fives, or take anything a dog does well, even if it’s an annoying habit, and put a command to it! This makes training a bit more fun for the both of you.

If there is a certain area of the yard that seems to be problematic when it comes to digging you may find success in either a noise or water activated sensor alarm. If it is a smaller area such as a garden, try using underground fencing and place it around the border of the garden. If laying wire is not for you then look into the wireless fencing, it keeps the dog contained to a certain area and it’s portable so when you visit Aunt Betsy you can take the fence with you. Of course if you are to use any type of electronic fencing please teach the dog the boundaries first. I am reminded of my brother who carefully laid the wire for his garden boundary, but did not take the time to teach the dog where that boundary was. Hence the dog bounced back and fourth getting little zaps to the neck until if found safety on the deck. When you do it this way, you may find yourself with a dog who never wants to leave the house!

The second most common reason for digging is to get to the cool or warm earth underneath, so provide your dog with adequate shelter to get out of the elements. In the winter months use a heated dog bed and for summer months use the cool mats which stay cool for hours. Raised pet cots also do well in keeping a dog cooler in the summer months.

Another idea that works well is actually building or buying a child’s sandbox and redirecting the dog to dig in there. As humans, we are great at telling a dog ‘No’, but we are not great at showing them what they are allowed to do! When they are not redirected, you end up with the same frustrating problem all over again.

Fill the sandbox with similar dirt you would find in your yard and hide some toys and treats just underneath the soil, then teach the dog to find them. This will eventually have the dog return to the box to see if there are other goodies awaiting him. When you catch him digging in the yard tell him no, redirect him to the sandbox, then praise and reward him for digging in the right spot.

Dog pens are another option, this gives the dog limited access to the yard when he can’t be watched and keeps the digging contained to the pen area. Building a pen that suits your taste rather than buying a standard chain link pen from the store will work just as well. Of course you’ll want to get that wheelbarrow fixed before trying to haul the cement that will steady the fencing posts!

Also, keep in mind the breed you chose to be your companion. Some dogs are bred to hunt vermin and digging comes with the territory, you can’t, and shouldn’t, take the breed out of the dog! This is where doing your homework before selecting a dog will help.

So until next time, if you are up North, enjoy the snow that covers the holes!

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