We love our dogs but they're not always perfect. When issues arise it can be difficult finding the right solution. There are so many resources out there but they are often conflicting and confusing and it's hard to know where to start.
Working with our trainer, Morgan McMurdy CPDT-KA, we have sifted through the sea of information and compiled a library of free resources for you. You will find all sorts of fun, simple things you can do at home with your pup to improve the quality of life for both of you. Below are some common problems you may run into and our suggestions for how to deal with them*. Just remember, training should be something both you and your dog enjoy!
Despite getting the right information, you may run into roadblocks when training even “simple” things. Every pup is going to learn a little differently (just like people!), be motivated differently, and learn at different speeds. That is where the guidance of a qualified professional trainer comes in. A good trainer will be able to formulate a training plan for you and you dog, determine the root of the problem, and ensure you are using the right techniques and mechanics to get the results you want. You can contact us here to inquire about our training services, including one-on-one help or train-while-you’re-away solutions!
If you are dealing with any type of aggression it is always best to consult with a qualified professional. To find one, ask your vet or check out this guide for questions to ask a potential dog trainer.
Our training services are available to all Boston area pups.
*the links below are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for the advice of a certified professional dog trainer
Hands down our number one recommendation for improving your life with your pup is The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell. We guarantee you will gain insights and understand how to clearly communicate with your dog by the end of this book.
An applied animal behaviorist and experienced dog trainer, Dr. Patricia McConnell looks at humans as just another interesting species, and muses about why we behave the way we do around dogs, how they might interpret that behavior, and how to interact with dogs in a way that brings out their very best.
Jumping pups can be annoying when they jump on you, embarrassing when they jump on guests or strangers, and even painful when accompanied by scratching or mouthing/nipping. Good news is you can teach your pup to keep their paws to themselves
Learning to wait and stay are very helpful for teaching impulse control and teaching a dog how to be calm
This is an important behavior for pretty obvious reasons. Nobody likes to be dragged down the street, and it doesn’t put the dogs in a great state of mind either. Pulling dogs tend to be more amped up, and quick to react.
Dogs may lunge, bark and react when walking on leash for a variety of reasons. Learn why they react and how to change it to make walks enjoyable
Recall is one of the most important skills you can teach your pup. As off leash enthusiasts we love hiking with our pups so a strong recall is a must. Even if you never want to walk your dog off leash, we guarantee there will be a moment you will want to call your dog to you so this is a good skill to practice
Resource guarding can quickly become a dangerous behavior so start training right away if you see any signs of this in your dog. If your dog is already aggressive about guarding it is important to seek the help of a professional
Many of the problem behaviors we see in our dogs, like jumping up on us, getting onto counters, chewing things they shouldn’t, or even barking all hours of the day, can be caused simply from boredom.
Many dogs were originally bred to have a job that required their mental energy for many hours of the day. Now that they’re living in our city apartments and tiny backyards, they have a lot of time spent NOT working.
There are some creative and fun ways to introduce some constructive mental workouts back into our dog’s lives!
Bonus benefit of enrichment is confidence building as well! Some of these are especially important for our more shy or nervous pups! Just make sure you take everything at your dog’s pace.
Below are our top ten favorite enrichment activities, but you can always contact our trainer, Morgan McMurdy CPDT-KA, if you think your pup might need a more personalized approach.
There a lot of puzzle toys and interactive feeders on the market, but any of them are a great idea to slow your dog down at mealtime and make them think a little bit to earn their food! These toys often involve the dog pushing, pulling, or nudging open secret compartments to find hidden bits of food. These are best given to your dog with supervision as some dogs can take matters into their own paws and decide that chewing the feeder is easier than solving the puzzle! There are some great DIY puzzles you can make as well, which allows you to tweak the difficulty level for your pup.
Kong makes a variety of toys that you can stuff with all sorts of things to make mealtime last longer! Some of our favorite things to put in kongs include: peanut butter, plain yogurt, goat milk, biscuits, kibble, pumpkin, ground meat, steamed veggies, applesauce, etc! To make it last even longer, freeze your “kong-koncoction” before giving it to your pup! The kong website has some more recipes you can check out too
Our dogs see their world through their noses first! That makes finidng things one of the best ways to work out their brain. You can play fun games with your dog that engages their sense of smell by hiding food around the house, or laying a trail of food in the grass they have to follow. There are also dog sports and activities dedicated to dogs using their sense of smell including K9 Nosework, AKC Scent Work, Search & Rescue, Barn Hunt, and Tracking! Speaking of dog sports…
Getting involved in a local dog club is a wonderful way to build the relationship with you and your dog, and enrich them in the process. If you have a hound, they may enjoy nosework or barn hunt! Herding dogs can enjoy agility, herding, disc, or flyball. Sighthounds like whippets excel at lure coursing. Sporting dogs can try dock diving, rally (a form of obedience trial), and obedience. There’s also weight pull for bully dogs, canicross for mushing breeds- the possibilities are endless! And your dog may like ANY of these sport venues- just check them out and see if maybe it is something you and your pup may be interested in. You can even take this fun quiz by the AKC to see what sport your dog matches with!
Positive, reward-based training is not only useful, it is fun! Teaching your dog a new trick uses up a lot more of their energy than you’d think! And you should keep sessions short at 2-5 minutes as dog’s attention spans are usually short and they retain information better with more frequent, short sessions.
Yep, it is what it sounds like! You can play the timeless classic with your pup to help work their brain and have fun at the same time! When you first start playing with your pup, make sure you make it easy for them to find you until they get better at the game. Celebrate with them when they find you, and you can even feed them parts of their dinner as a reward! One way you can set this game up is by placing your dog in a stay, then call them to release them once you’ve found a spot to hide, OR by having a helper hold your dog back while you run and hide.
Going along the idea that meal time can be made more interactive, snuffle mats were created to simulate foraging for dogs. These mats are made of dozens of tied fleece strips that make a sort of artificial grass. You can use these to replace your dog’s food bowl, similar to the interactive feeders and puzzle toys we mentioned earlier! Just sprinkle some dry treats or food into the mat, hiding what you can deep into the mat, and let your dog try and sniff them all out! There are many DIY articles online teaching you how to make your own snuffle mat, or you can get one from us here
Chewing is a natural stress relieving activity for dogs- this is why they tend to destroy our stuff when they feel anxious at home! Our favorite chews to use are raw bones like marrow bones or knuckle joints. They can be fed frozen or thawed in a crate, on a towel, or outside to minimize mess. These bones have wonderful teeth cleaning benefits as well, since the dogs have to scrape and pull to get meat off the bones. Once the bones have been cleaned, it’s best to remove these bones from your pup so they don’t try to crack into the harder parts and hurt their teeth. That said, these are best served under supervision. Other chews you can consider are bully sticks and no-hide chews!
This isn’t just an ordinary walk through the park. Decompression walks, a term coined by dog trainer Sarah Stremming of the Cognitive Canine LLC, are walks where the dog is truly allowed to be a dog- sniffing and digging and exploring until they experience “decompression.” This is the hallmark of our hikes here at A Dog’s Life! These walks are best done off-leash where the dog can explore as they wish, but being on a harness and long line (15-50ft leash) is acceptable as well. They key is to let your dog make their own choices (as long as they are safe), and let out the stresses of the day in their own way. For many dogs, getting to run and sniff and roll in the grass are enough to tire them out for the rest of the day!
Flirt Pole Play
A flirt pole is kind of like the fishing pole toys made for cats, but larger. You can also make your own out of horse lunge whips! As long as your dog knows how to drop the toy and wait until they are released to go for the toy again, having them chase and run after the lure can tire even the most energetic dog out in no time! This video is of our hiker pup, Laika, enjoying some flirt pole play while boarding with us!