As professional dog walkers and pet sitters, we are often called in to assist families when their dogs are misbehaving. The dogs, of course, aren't trying to misbehave - they would refer to their activities as exploring, discovering, and even taste-testing, but some of these behaviors, while laughter-inducing, can have consequences. For this reason, today we're sharing the many ways in which dogs do the darndest things and how to manage and prevent these common yet naughty dog behaviors.
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Counter-Surfing
If you've had a counter-surfing dog, you probably have a million stories to share about things they have gotten into when you weren't looking. Our friend and pet industry journalist, Isabel Alvarez Arata, had a counter-surfing hound dog years ago and often jokes that she's still searching for a bran muffin she brought home from the grocery store in 2016. Isabel thought she had the situation managed by tucking the muffin, which was wrapped in saran wrap, above the toaster oven while she put away the groceries. Of course, a stealth hound can sniff through plastic wrap, and the muffin was gone before Isabel came up for air. There was not a crumb to be found, either, so at least the hound girl didn't make a mess!
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Preventing Counter-Surfing
Management and prevention are the same when it comes to your dog's counter-surfing habits. By managing the space where your pet tends to counter-surf you'll ensure that your pet doesn't get positive reinforcement - a reward - every time they stand on the counter.
To manage counter-surfing consider gating off your kitchen and keeping your dog outside the gate when they cannot be supervised. The gate can be open when you're cooking if your dog is a solely opportunistic counter-surfer but keep them out if they are relentless because cooking with a counter-surfing dog can be dangerous to everyone involved.
In addition, consider keeping your baked goods and treats in your pantry or a plastic tub on the counter. Getting in the habit of storing foods in a tub or pantry will ensure that your dog has fewer opportunities to catch a free meal and you'll be glad to have fresher bread longer. With the right routine and process, you can better manage your dog's temptations and keep them away from foods that could make them ill. This technique is great for cats too!
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Inappropriate Sniffing
It can be so embarrassing when dogs sniff our guests inappropriately. It's almost like they are giving them a check-up down there!
But, how can we explain to our scent-propelled dogs that they are NOT an OB or a urologist?! We can't. But, we can, instead, teach our pets to sniff appropriately. Between training and management, you can ensure your dog and your guests feel at ease around each other.
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Preventing Inappropriate Sniffing
First and foremost, teaching your dog "place" is a great way to get your dog or dogs away from the front door to let your guests in. Then, before you release the dogs from their "place," give your guests a few treats to put in their non-dominant hand. Making a fist around the treats, the guests are ready to redirect inappropriate sniffing to the hand housing the delicious snacks. Every time the dog touches the hand with their nose, they can get a treat. Repeat a few times per round and repeat rounds as needed. If you do this with all your guests, your dog will not only learn to sniff appropriately (yay!) but they will also associate company with good things, making them more social and putting them at ease around welcomed strangers.
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Incessant Barking
If you have a barky dog, you know how frustrating incessant barking can be. Unfortunately, many dog breeds can be barky - we're looking at you Schnauzers! Therefore, choosing a breed that is NOT known for being loud is a great first step, especially if you live in a condo or townhome. That said, breed is not the only determinant involved when barking is concerned. Many dogs bark no matter their size, breed, and temperament. Barking is a form of communication for dogs and has its place in the home. Of course, the problem starts when a dog is barking incessantly and disturbing others.
Dogs Do the Darndest Things: Preventing Incessant Barking
If choosing a more quiet breed is no longer an option, start by preventing your dog's triggers - both visual and auditory. For example, if your dog barks every time the mailman comes by, plan your walks around the mailman's delivery times when possible. If your dog barks at the neighbors walking by, shut the window so that they can't see these menaces approaching their beloved territory. If knocking puts your dog in a frenzy, invest in a cute sign for your front door that asks guests to avoid knocking. And, if your dog hates the sound of the dogs next door barking, consider white noise or leaving the TV or radio on to muffle some of their barking. Getting creative and observing your dog will help you better understand what management tools you need.
When barking is too much to handle and your dog is seemingly stressed by all that they are experiencing in and around your home, speak to your veterinarian and positive-based dog trainer about calming supplements and counter conditioning, respectively. Using the tools available to you will help your pet be more at ease with the daily goings on in their life and neighborhood.
At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we see all sorts of behaviors in dogs. Some are quirky, biologically appropriate behaviors while others are concerning and potentially dangerous. If ever we notice something that could be getting out of hand, could cause trouble, or may put your pet or family in danger, we will always let you know. Our goal in informing our clients of our observations is to alert you, never to judge. We consider ourselves a part of your pet care team and are always rooting for you and your pets.
Hearts at Home Pet Sitting provides in-home pet sitting and dog walking services in Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News, and Hampton, Virginia. If you are interested in becoming a client, please complete a new client questionnaire here. Existing clients may request services here.