Take a moment and just think about instinctive dog behavior.
Dogs naturally like to sniff, mark, scavenge, hunt, chase, dig and the list goes on. Now, think about the last time your dog did any of these innate activities. Never? Once last year? I recognize life is hectic and I too have to carve out time in my day to make sure my dog is happily engaged in some of his natural pleasures. I was recently reminded during a road trip how easy it is to please a dog, how much we restrict them in urban environments and the effect it has on behavior. For three days straight, Finn was able to sniff every tree, leaf and ant hill without hearing me say not there (his cue avoid neighbors’ gardens). He happily dug holes in the woods while we rested in between hikes and intently marked wherever he pleased with confidence and ease because we were somewhere it was safe to do so.
Not only did Finn have best day ever look on his face for the entire weekend but I found naughty behaviors that I have redirected with training to completely dissipate. One of which is, he loves to chase anything…squirrels, birds, cats. This is not a behavior I condone, encourage or allow except for the occasional chasing of the squirrel if I know it is far enough up the tree that Finn can not injure it. Another pesky behavior in the city is Finn’s disdain for dogs. After being attacked multiple times on neighborhood walks, I cannot blame him. Yet, he still had to learn that lunging, barking and growling were not a way to cope with his fear around dogs.
What I found on our little trip is he didn’t give two hoots about the birds that flew around us while we ate on a patio. He quietly and contently observed rather them. When we walked by dogs in town, Finn passed them with grace and disinterest as if their presence did not bother him a bit. While I still feel training is key to a quality life and a happy dog, using a little creativity to find simple activities can go a long way to supplement your behavior modification program in very big ways.
Now, stop listing all the things your dog does wrong in a day and get creative. Think about how to squeeze a forest preserves trip into your schedule or find an acceptable place for your pup to bury or dig his toys (sand buckets and boxes are great for that). Send us the activities you find that turn your dog’s tail wag into a full wiggle butt dance.