You’ll stop this (as with most dog issues) by thinking like a dog. All she knows is what she knows, and in her world, barking and scratching at the screen door result in you opening the door. I know what you’re thinking – it’s something along the lines of “But when I open the door I fuss at her and she knows she’s done something wrong!” Well, maybe, maybe not. In this case, I think that the reward of you opening the door for her to come in is so reinforcing, she’s willing to withstand a bit of fussing to achieve her (not your!) desired result. Before I give you a suggestion on how to fix this problem, I’m going to assume that your dog is emotionally healthy and receives enough attention, exercise, and toys to keep her entertained, and that there’s nothing in the yard that is frightening her (I know someone whose dog was terrified of being in the yard; the owners later realized that hummingbirds were attacking her!). If you’ve got those bases covered, here’s one (of many) tricks I use for screen door “scratchers”: purchase a dog exercise pen and place it around the outside of your screen door. This way, your dog can’t access the screen at all. You can also go to your local office supply store and purchase a clear, plastic office chair mat (it’s smooth on one side, bumpy on the other). Using Velcro, fasten it to the screen door, bumpy side out, at the right height for your dog. Take into consideration the size of your dog and the type of screen scratching he does – if your dog stands on it’s hind legs to scratch, you’ll need to place it higher. Then, the next time your dog attempts to carve up the screen, she will be met with a very unpleasant sensation and give up her hobby. Best of all, she won’t associate you with the correction, just your new, bumpy door, thereby saving your screen and your relationship all at the same time!
Dogs bark for many reasons, but when you’re gone, loneliness and boredom are usually at the heart of it. Separation anxiety occurs in a very small number of dogs, but if that were the case here, you’d normally see other symptoms (having accidents, destructiveness, being very clingy when you try to leave).
There’s the group of people who’ve reinforced barking, because whenever they hear a noise outside they ask urgently “Who’s there? Who’s there?” inciting the dog into a barking frenzy and rewarding them with either laughter or praise. A cool game until you’re dog barks at everything he hears without you having to say a word.
But more often than not, dogs who bark while their owners aren’t home have learned that barking gets them what they want, just as a trained dog learns that doing a “sit” earns them a treat or praise. It’s worth taking note of what your reaction is when you’re home and your dog barks at you – do you produce a treat, play with him, or run to open the door so he can go outside and play? Housebreaking issues are exempt from that last example. Teaching your dog that barking doesn’t cause you to spring into action will go a long way in extinguishing the behavior.
For the times when you do leave, make sure that your dog is suitably exercised and has a few cool toys to play with while you’re away. Don’t allow him access to windows where he might see people or dogs pass by, because that kind of “TV” viewing encourages barking every time someone passes by your home.
And speaking of being away, make sure that your goodbye is brief and unemotional. Avoid cue words that trip off the behavior you don’t want; for example, if your last words before leaving are always “Mommy misses you”, simply stop saying it. Fifteen minutes before leaving, turn on the or radio for white noise, and give your dog a dog “pacifier” in the form of a stuffed hard rubber toy, and skip the long goodbyes. Eventually, your dog should look forward to leaving so he can have his reward.
Yesterday we adopted a very hyper, 8-month old puppy from the shelter and were wondering how to integrate him into our dinner party next month. We’re expecting a hundred people, and the guests range from toddlers to the very elderly, so we want him to be well behaved when he’s wandering around. Any tips?
What you’re saying is that you have a new, hyper, adolescent puppy, and are wondering how to train him to accept not only the new home and new family that he’s with but also a hundred people that he’s never met before? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a slim to none chance that you’ll be able to quick train this dog into the party ambassador that you so desire. Not only that, but I think that it’s asking far too much of a puppy to have to deal with that kind of excitement and potential stress. Probable disasters range from him jumping on and injuring a guest, stealing food (or having a guest feed him!) resulting in an upset stomach, or, the ever popular, failing to alert someone of his need to use the “facilities” and leaving an unwelcome surprise on the floor. In my opinion your dog – and you – would be happier if he were upstairs in a bedroom, preferably under the watchful eye of a neighborhood teen you hired for the evening whose sole purpose is to meet the puppy’s needs. After the party, dedicate yourself to obedience training him, and he can make his debut at next year’s event!
This is a classic example of “All dogs love their travel bags – unless they don’t”. Here’s my tried and true T.R.I.P. method for training dogs how to happily travel in their bag:
- Teach them to love their bag! Make sure lots of cool toys and snacks appear randomly in it – initially, keep it will on the floor so they can hop in and out of it at will.
- Recreation inside the bag is key! New toys that the dog has never played with before will make the dog look forward to going into his bag.
- Introduce them to travel with short trips – ex: kitchen to the living room
- Please Release Me! Dogs shouldn’t live in their bags. Especially in the beginning, give them frequent opportunities to get out and walk around. They’ll like the bag more when they realize it isn’t a prison.
Give a consistent command, such as “Get in your bag!”, or “Hop In!” whenever placing a dog inside. Eventually, your dog will happily jump into the bag whenever she hears the command. In the case of a dog who jumps in the bag but keeps their head poking out, gently press on their head and tell them “Head Down” as you zipper it closed. Catching your dog’s fur in the zipper can set your training back.
Interior decorating – mats, blankets etc. should honor the climate. No matter how much you love the idea of a faux mink blanket, your dog will be miserable with that in her bag while she’s being carried around South Beach in August! Dogs overheat quickly and can die from heatstroke, so be extra alert to high temperatures in warm climates and during the summer.
Bags should be belted into car seats (back seat, away from the airbags).