Dog Behaviourist Lara Shannon’s  joins Dave with Top Tips On International Dog Day Monday 26 August 2019

Dealing with a digging dog?  A pooch sending you barking mad?  Or uncontrollable canine chewing?

If you are struggling with a problematic pup or a mischievous mutt, Dog Behaviourist and Pooches at Play’s Creator and Host, Lara Shannon has compiled her top tips for International Dog Day to help ensure the mental, physical and emotional needs of our canine companions are met to help them thrive, not just survive.

Whilst responsible owners understand that a dog needs a good diet, shelter and daily exercise, there are still far too many that are not providing their dogs with the environmental enrichment that is crucial to a dog.  Without this, a furry friend’s anxiety or boredom as a result can often turn to digging, barking, chewing, escaping, other destructive behaviour and even aggression.

To stimulate your pooch pal’s physical and mental wellbeing and prevent unwanted behaviour, Lara Shannon lists her top tips to help:

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Ditch the Food Bowl

In the wild, dogs spend their days hunting and foraging for their food which keeps them mentally and physically active all day long.  In comparison, their companion canine counterparts are instead often left all day long with nothing to do so ditch the food bowl and scatter their dry food, tasty meat morsels or treats around the yard to encourage them to use hunting traits to search out their meal instead.

“By making a dog work for their food, it taps into a dog’s most important sense – smell.  Dogs have between 200 million and one billion scent receptors, compared to our six million, and they love to use them!  Sniffing around, known as ‘scenting’, is incredibly important for a dog as it releases feel good endorphins as a result of exercising them and their brain”, says Shannon.

Dealing with the Digging

Whilst digging is a normal instinctive behaviour for many dogs, and some dogs just simply love to dig, excessive digging in the backyard is often a result of a bored or anxious dog.  Firstly, make sure they have protection from the elements to rule out digging as a way to cool down or to create a protected space.  You can actually use their desire to dig when bored or anxious by directing it in a positive way and to a dedicated area that can be used to expel some of that energy instead.

A sand pit with hidden treats and toys will divert their digging to the designated area.  Remember to encourage them with praise when you catch them digging in the area they are ‘allowed’ and barrier off any no-go zones that they may have regularly dug up before, as you want to reinforce the positive association with the area you are okay for them to dig in.

“This is a great way to again tap into their desire to hunt and provides more mental and physical stimulation”, Shannon says.

Keep them occupied

Most dogs are motivated by food in some way, shape or form.  Especially ‘high value’ foods like chicken and treats.  Another way to tap into their need to hunt and work their brains is to use interactive treat dispensing toys and puzzles, or easily create your own.

“A great one for dogs that like to chew is freezing meat in a suitably sized Kong wobbler.  If your dog is less of a chewer, then you can instead freeze some chicken or treats in an ice cream or other suitable container with water.  Both of these can keep them occupied for hours and stop them from finding other ways to let out their frustration”.

Dogs Love Dates Too

If time isn’t on your side to walk your dog on a regular and consistent schedule each day, consider a doggy date with a friend, colleague or neighbour – dogs love and need daily exercise.

“Some breeds need much more than others, so you need to know what your dog requires as a minimum, to help prevent so many of the ‘problem’ behaviours we are seeing across Australia today.  The socialisation with others is an added bonus, so combine the two to help keep your pooch healthy and happy”.

Tender Loving Care

Whilst it is easy to call out dogs when they misbehave, dogs learn best through positive reinforcement of desired behavours, rather than punishing them for an action that should instead be warning you that your dog’s needs are not being met.  The more we reward and reinforce a behaviour, it occurs with more intensity and frequency, so think about how you are responding to your dog when they do something you do or don’t like.

“Dogs don’t just’ know’ what they are meant to do and what is good or bad.  We need to show them by being clear and consistent.  They thrive on love and good, fair, leadership, and positive human interactions, so spend time with them each day and implement the tips above to help create a calmer and well-adjusted pup”, Shannon says.