Predeparture checklists go something like this in my household: Bathroom door? Shut and sealed. The gates? Fortified. Priceless belongings placed out of reach? Affirmative.
Five years of a particularly energetic dog have taught me a few lessons.
Lesson No. 1: Bathroom doors are important. That one time, when she first discovered lemon soap in the shower, sparked a curiosity that's been raging ever since. The bathroom door has therefore been shut ever since — except for that other one time, when she did it again.
Lesson No. 2: Install gates. An army of plastic is the only thing between my dog and her other addiction: refuse. Some days I come home to trash decorating the floor; other days I discover missing kitty food, among other kitty unmentionables. And yet other days, she identifies a weakness, and subterfuge ensues.
Lesson No. 3: Hide anything you don't want destroyed. And the stuff you can't hide, come to terms with its eventual death. Remotes, furniture, shoes, towels and cords all have seen better days pre-pet.
And yet, the biggest lesson of all? My dog is bored.
Happy pets are well-behaved pets. And while I'd like to believe I'm the best dog owner around, I'm simply not. I might be if I exercised her more, if I paid her a bit more attention, or if I had more patience.
All we pet owners can do is the best within the parameters we've been given.
When faced with a bad behavior, identifying the root cause comes first. Boredom, anxiety or even a medical problem could be causing Buddy's chewing, jumping or incessant barking.
The solution is to alleviate the cause of the bad behavior, not punish or even respond when the behavior rears its head. With dogs especially, any attention — even negative — can be affirmation.
Small but powerful changes in your own behavior can effect real change for your pet.
In my case, when I gave my dog more opportunities for unbridled fun, attention and challenge, she became less bored and her behaviors greatly diminished.
Next time a bad behavior pops up, try putting yourself in your pet's shoes and consider opportunities to relieve the root problem, not punish the effect of it.