I was at a lesson with a new Home Dog Training Client in Suwanee last week. One of the big things we worked on was to have his dog properly and respectfully walk with him around the neighborhood. We quickly transformed his dog into a “great walker”. As we were turning around to come home, one of his neighbors came out of their house with a question.
His neighbor told us that he has an eight-month-old American Staffordshire Terrier named Kevin. Kevin came to them as a puppy. He told us that Kevin has always been a “high maintenance” dog and was always “at the top of the scales” when it came to exuberance and excitement. He also mentioned that he had to drive over an hour each way to Athens for his job. His job also often required long hours and sometimes he also had to work on weekends.
On top of that, he frequently went on three and four-day business trips. From peeking out his window, he commented on the great things we were achieving with my client’s dog. He said that he knew his long hours away from Kevin weren’t ideal. He wondered if we had any tips to help.
I started my conversation by saying that correct, professional training is often the most appropriate solution for most dogs and dog owners. Because of his job requirements and lack of free time at home with Kevin, socialization and proper bonding are probably top of Kevin’s needs and his “to-do list”. Professional dog training is one thing, but simple “fun and play time” is extremely important in a dog’s (and our) personal development. Because of his long hours causing extensive time away from home (and Kevin), he needed to focus on maximizing the quality time he can generate for Kevin.
Quality time with an eight-month-old puppy isn’t greeting him at the door with a pet and watching TV with him at night. Larger breed puppies (and especially American Staffordshire’s) need a way to get rid of their “puppy excitement” in a positive manner. I told the neighbor to think of his puppy as if he were a little schoolboy that had been in class sitting at his desk all day long. He hadn’t had the opportunity to get outside to recess. Until he could get all the pent-up energy and “puppy-play” out of Kevin, positive behavior and effective obedience training was impossible.
I assured him that his situation was not unique and quite more common than most people would realize. We have run into this situation many times. I shared the recommendations we have used over and over again in the past. I would like to share them now:
- Vigorously create quality time with your dog. Even if you work extended hours, make it a point to set aside thirty minutes when you get home that is completely devoted to “you and your dog”. This means no cell phones, no TV, no computer. The moment you get home and put your stuff down, take him into the back yard and play catch with him. Carry four or five tennis balls and toss them into the yard one at a time. As soon as he gets to the first ball, toss the second ball in a slightly different location. Repeat this with the third and fourth tennis balls. As you are tossing out each ball, calmly walk around and pick up the discarded ones. This will allow you to continue the process for as long as you want. As Kevin is enthusiastically and energetically running after the balls you are tossing, you are simply walking around the yard in a calm manner. Continue this little “get the ball I just tossed game” for about ten minutes. After that, start to “slow it down” until you can have him next to you as you sit in a chair in the back yard or back porch. Give him a goodie or his favorite toy. One thing that Robin and I often suggest are Deer Antlers. Just sit out there and “enjoy the back yard” together. Once you have spent some quiet time with him outside, calmly walk with him back inside and continue your evening.
- At your dinner time, give Randy his dinner at the same time in the same room with you. Passively building a respectful bond is critical in the canine-human relationship. The “breaking of bread” is important with any animal and strengthens that bond. With this said, the one thing you don’t want to do is to feed him from the table. Your food and his food are always physically separated.
- At least in my day, kids loved going off to Summer Camp. This was because of the social interaction and constant socialization. Most dogs crave the same experience of being with other dogs and “just being dogs”. In many instances, this is more than just a craving, it is a critical need. If your dog is alone all day, we strongly suggest that you find a good Doggie Day Care around your home that has both an inside and outside play area. This will guarantee that, rain, snow, or shine, your dog and his doggie friends will have plenty of time to positively interact and “just be dogs”. I suggested to my client’s neighbor that he take Kevin to such a place at least once or twice a week. I also suggested that he take Kevin at the same time on the same days. This will make sure that Kevin will always be with the same dogs and his ability to relax and “be a dog” will be more pronounced. This means that Kevin will build up relationships while at the Doggie Day Care and will favorably anticipate each experience. His sense of safety and wellbeing will positively reflect on the neighbor because the neighbor is providing Kevin with the experience.
- If your workdays are “extremely long”, hire a dog walker or ask a neighbor to come to the house, play with Kevin, and take him for walks. This breaks up the solitary monotony, helps with his socialization, and decreases the possibility of separation anxiety.
I told my client’s neighbor that these ideas have worked with many of our clients in the past. In implementing them, it will turn him in the right direction of building a special bond and healthy relationship with Kevin. With that said, the process will take time and patience. Our experience has shown that such actions help assure that you will have a wonderful dog and excellent, life-long companion.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.