I Get Questions

By Kathy Santo | Updated: May 13 2019

For most people, interpreting their dog’s behavioral issue is like reading Homer’s Odyssey. Upside down. In Mandarin.

It’s situations like these that can cause tension and stress between the owner and dog, and sometimes result in the owner making the decision to place the dog in a shelter. The good news is that if you learn a few basic facts about dogs and their learning process, you’ll be able to successfully solve these problems.

Here’s a situation that illustrates a concept that I like to call DOG 101:

Dogs are natural problem solvers.

How do I keep my dog entertained when I’m not home? For months I thought my refrigerator was faulty because there were always pieces of ice and puddles of water in front of it. A few hundred dollars in service calls later, I caught my dog pressing the buttons. What now?

You’ve just learned what all good dog behaviorists already know –

Dogs Learn Best What They Discover Themselves.

Whether it’s something you want them to learn (a “down”  command), or not (using the toilet as a water bowl), if they gain the knowledge themselves, they’ll accomplish their goal more quickly than if you tried to teach them. To fully understand this concept, think about how long it would take you to teach your dog to climb over the fence in your backyard vs. how long it would take him to climb over it if there was something he really wanted on the other side. Non-neutered dogs seeking the attention of un-spayed females would fall into the Warp 5 category of fence vaulting.

In your case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unplugging the water and ice capabilities of your refrigerator and letting your dog have a fruitless (or cube-less) month whenever he pushes the levers will eventually extinguish the behavior.

However, if you take away his one-armed bandit game without substituting a few challenging dog toys, then you risk him quitting his ice cube habit and taking up another, equally entertaining (to him) game.

One of my favorite ways to keep a dog entertained is to stuff and freeze a hard rubber dog toy, like a Kong. You can stuff it with the classic “peanut butter and a cookie” combo and freeze, or go here for recipes:

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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