Published on the Ledger Transcript (http://www.ledgertranscript.com)
Tips on Raising Behaviorally Healthy Dogs
By Denise Mazzola, CPDT-KA
Monday, October 21, 2013
(Published in print: Tuesday, October 22, 2013)
Physically healthy means keeping the body healthy. It means the same for our dogs. Living in the Northeast means living with mosquitoes, so we give our dogs’ a monthly heartworm preventative. As puppies, we take them to the vet for vaccinations. When the dog is sick, we call the vet and she diagnoses and treats him or her.
How many people think of their dogs as being behaviorally healthy? How many people know what behaviorally healthy means? Not many.
When I was growing up, life was much different for our dogs. Petite — our fox terrier mix — was fed in the morning and let out. She would run in the woods, find her doggie friends, chase things and come home tired, satisfied and totally content at the end of the day. There were very few behavioral problems.
Recently, I was interviewed for a business profile, and when I stated that my goal was to design and build a behaviorally healthy day care and boarding facility, the interviewer had no idea what I was talking about. Most dog breeds were bred for a job, the herding breeds are hardwired to herd other animals, poodles are hunters as are Labradors. Most breeds with terrier in them are tenacious hunters and have a lot of energy. Our busy lives prevent us from fulfilling our dog’s lives behaviorally.
Unsatisfied dogs can become problem dogs, chewing our belongings, digging in our gardens, barking and creating a host of other issues.
Here are some suggestions to keep your dogs behaviorally healthy: First and foremost, and it’s probably the only thing I agree with dog behavior specialist Cesar Milan about, exercise your dog. The same walk around the block every night at 5 p.m. is not exercise. Walk your dog for a minimum of an hour a day and take her to different places each time. Your dog will find the new smells, sights and sounds stimulating and enriching. She will be more content. If you don’t have time to walk your dog, hire a dog walker.
Find out what your dog was bred to do and find her an outlet. Herding breeds are great at agility, chasing a Frisbee or a ball. Don’t leave it up to the dog, or they’ll herd and chase your kids or the neighbor’s kids and that won’t be popular. Terriers need to kill something, buy lots of squeaky toys and let the poor dog go to town, shaking and pulling them apart. Use brain toys to feed your dog. With brain toys, the dog has to solve a puzzle in order to get the food out.
Behaviorally healthy dogs are less destructive, enjoy more time with their people and quite simply have fewer behavior problems. Take the time to enrich your dog’s life, you’ll be glad you did.
Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 25 years. Everything Dog provides services to clients throughout the Monadnock Region of NH by offering private lessons, group classes, board and train, as well as day training services. Denise has been published in the trade journal, Chronicle of the Dog, and writes a monthly column for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript. She also hosts a monthly “Ask the Trainer” radio show on WKBK. Denise lives in Keene with her life and business partner, Amy Willey CPDT-KA, and they share their home with three dogs and three daughters. For more information, visit www.everythingdognh.com.