Thursday, April 16, 2015

Caught Being Good

This is a good puppy. She is laying there calmly and chewing on a dog toy.

You know what she is not doing? Barking. Pestering Brisbane. Chewing on my slippers. I've been telling her what a good puppy she is, without being exciting enough to interrupt her chewing session. She is getting positive attention for doing what should really be a mundane, everyday activity.

Why am I heaping praise on her for doing something unremarkable? It's because I want her to learn that chewing on her toys is more fun than chewing on my slippers. She already knows that grabbing a shoe or a slipper is a way to get my attention immediately. If grabbing an appropriate toy gets her ignored, but grabbing a forbidden object gets her some interaction, she could learn to grab my slippers whenever she wants some attention.

When she does grab a slipper, shoe, or other random object, I don't make a big deal out of it. I simply remove whatever she's got and then present her with a toy. As soon as she touches the toy I tell her what a marvelous dog she is. If we have to go get the toy from another room, I like to bring it back to wherever she had settled down with her forbidden prize. After all, that was obviously a good spot to settle down and have a good gnaw.

Management is also important for teaching a dog what is and is not appropriate to chew. Darla is not a terribly destructive dog, she can play with a shoe for quite a while without damaging it. If she had a history of destroying things, I would be much more careful where I left my slippers. Since she's pretty benign, I can leave my shoes on the floor and we can work on learning the difference between puppy toys and everything else. I'm hoping this will help Darla if she gets adopted by a family with kids, because we all know that kids tend to leave stuff all over the place.


  1. I love this topic. I have been trying to do the same with my 6 mo old pup. He's a English bulldog/basset hound mix. He loves his toys, yet he also loves the things he knows he's not supposed to have. I take them away and give him a good thing, but mostly I praise praise praise like crazy when he's being a normal good dog and just simply choosing a dog toy. He eats it up!

    1. Yes! Good job! I often think they love the forbidden items because they get such an immediate response for grabbing them. Your puppy sounds adorable! Does he have ten times as much skin as he really needs?