Most of the behaviors that we humans might consider a problem, such as digging, barking, jumping on people, chewing, and so on, aren’t problems to your Golden Retriever.
Your dog digs because the dirt smells good, the weather is hot, and he wants to lie in some cooler dirt, or because you have rabbits that he would like to play with.
All of the things that we might consider problems, your dog is doing for a reason. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything that can be done. Most problem behavior can be controlled, prevented, or eliminated altogether.
WHAT TO DO?
Training can play a big part in controlling problem behavior. A fair but firm training program teaches your dog that you are in charge, that he is below you in the family, and should reinforce his concept of you as a kind, calm, and caring leader. You can also use your training skills to teach your dog what is acceptable and what is not.
Nutrition often plays a part in poor dog behavior. If your dog is not eating a good quality food, or if he isn’t digesting his food properly, his body may be missing some vital nutrients. If your Golden is chewing on rocks or wood, eating the drywall off your walls, grazing on the plants in your backyard, or eating dirt, he may have a nutritional problem. Some dogs develop a type of hyperactivity when they eat a high calorie, high fat, high protein dog food. Other dogs have food allergies that might show up as behavior problems. If you have any questions about your dog’s behavior in relation to food, ask your veterinarian.
Exercise is just as important for your Golden as it is for you. It works the body, uses up excess energy, relieves stress and clears the mind. How much exercise and what type depends upon your dog. A fast-paced walk might be enough exercise for a senior Golden but a young, healthy adult Golden Retriever will need a good run or a fast paced game of ball.
If your Golden has some physical limitations or if you have any doubts about his exercise needs, talk to your veterinarian. When you start an exercise program, start gradually, especially if your dog has been a couch potato.
Play is different from exercise, although exercise can be play. Laughter is very much a part of play and that is what makes it so special. Research shows that laughter is wonderful medicine; it makes you feel better, and because of that, it has a special place in your relationship with your dog. If training is sometimes difficult, and your dog is getting into trouble, make time to play with him. Play is a great stress reliever both for you and for your dog, so make some time every day to laugh and play.
Sometimes dogs will intentionally get into trouble because they feel ignored. To some dogs, negative attention such as yelling and screaming is better than no attention. By setting some time aside just for your dog, you can avoid some of these situations.
When trying to correct problem behavior, you may need to set up some new household rules for you and other family members. Your dog cannot raid the trash cans if you take the trash out before they are overflowing and if you put the trash cans out of reach before you leave the house. Your dog will get into less trouble if everyone closes the closet doors, picks up dirty laundry, and picks up their toys.
Part of preventing problems from happening also requires that you limit your dog’s freedom. A young puppy or untrained dog should never have free run of the entire house as there is just too much trouble he can get into. Instead, keep him in the room with you either by watching him or using baby gates across the doorways. If you can’t keep him with you then put him in his crate or outside in the yard.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Because so many of the things we consider problems are not problems to your dog, you need to prevent them from happening as much as possible when you are not there to teach him. If your dog discovers how much fun it is to chew up your couch cushions, you may have a tough time stopping him. The same applies to the kitchen trash can that is full of treasures to your Golden, and the kid’s toys. If they are within your Golden’s reach, remove them. It is much easier to prevent a problem from happening than it is to break a bad habit. In other words, when it comes to preventing problem behavior, it is the owner’s behavior that needs correcting, not the dog’s.
Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book. This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.