Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catch 'em in the act

Your dog is getting in the garbage when you’re not home. Or maybe he’s peeing on the carpet when you walk out of the room.
Perhaps he’s shredding the toilet paper while you’re away, tearing down the window treatments or chewing on the couch.
You know that yelling at him hours later, when you get home and find the destruction, doesn’t work because you’re not actually catching him in action. Therefore, he can’t make the association between his action and a negative consequence.
So what are you supposed to do?
How do you punish a dog for something he does when you’re not around?
Get creative.
Before you read on, I’ll warn you — most people aren’t willing to put this much time and effort into correcting their dog’s behavior.
You may be one of them, but before you stop reading, think about this: It will take you less time and effort to properly correct a behavior then to spend the entire life of your dog coming home day after day to clean up after him.
When your dog is doing things when you’re not around, there’s only way to correct the problem: set him up.
Sensi had a bout of garbage digging for a while, and there are few other behaviors that are quite as disgusting and create such a wretched mess.
I wasn’t going to allow this to keep happening.
I armed myself with a glass jar full of pennies — a trick I learned from the guy in our office who has a service dog. Shake that jar while charging toward your dog and he’ll think the world is coming to an end.
Then I casually led Sensi into another room, and once he was out of sight, I set up the garbage can. I put a little barbecue sauce on edge of the bag to tantalize him, and hung a few pieces of cheese over the edge.
We let Sensi back in the living area and immediately started preparing to “leave.” We put our shoes on, grabbed our coats, I slung my purse over my shoulder and we gave Sensi our usual goodbye — a couple pats on the head while we said, “We’ll be back, be good boy.”
Brent and I left the house, but we didn’t really leave. While Brent tinkered in the garage, I stealthily hid myself outside the house in a place where I could see through the sliding glass door and watch my dog, but he couldn’t see me.
It took about 20 minutes, and believe me, my patience was wearing thin.
I watched Sensi as he laid down on the couch and thought I might be hiding in the bushes all night.
But in the end, his nose led him to the garbage can. Just as he began licking the barbecue sauce, I burst through the sliding glass door shaking my jar of pennies.
Sensi was so terrified and shocked. Panic stricken, he ran and actually hid in a closet — I’d never seen him do that before.
I had to coax him out of the closet and cuddle him until he stopped shaking. I felt bad, but the set up worked.
Sensi has never again touched the garbage can.
It’s up to you. Be creative, devote some time and test your patience, or just resign yourself to cleaning up garbage strewn across the floor for the rest of the years you spend with your dog.

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