Dear Labby 3 Tips for Dog Behavior Issues

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Dear Labby

Dear Labby

Dear Labby,

We just adopted a young, energetic mixed breed male dog (we think part Lab, part Shepherd). Our vet says he appears to be between 3-4 years old.  “Lenny’ is adorable but he is exhibiting some unwanted behaviors including digging and chewing on our furniture. 

He has so much energy that we call him “Leaping Lenny”.  We take him for a good 15 minute walk every day, rain or shine and we play fetch with him a LOT.  Any advice?

Leaping Lenny’s Mom


Dear Leaping,

First of all, congratulations on your new family member and thank you for adopting Lenny.  We encourage people to consider adoption instead of purchasing because there are millions of dogs in need of homes. The U.S. Humane Society estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized.

Regarding Lenny’s behavior, there are a few things that you can try that may help him adjust to his new home.  Good luck and let us know how he does!

  1. Use exercise as a therapy.  While it is great that you walk Lenny every day for 15 minutes, I suspect that it is not enough for him.  Active breeds can stand much more intense exercise and are able to tolerate an hour or more of focused exercise each day.  Fetch, while fun, isn’t really the exercise that Lenny needs. He needs more structured exercise to help drain some of his energy.  Increasing Lenny’s exercise will help him feel ‘worked’ and he should feel less compelled to dig and chew.  Furthermore, high intensity exercise releases chemicals in Lenny’s body that make him feel good- like a runner’s high.  These feel good chemicals can help curb destructive behavior.  Think of this as a natural form of medication!  As we (and others) like to say: “a well exercised dog is a well behaved dog!” 
  2. Dog training.  We have found that working with knowledgeable trainers can help your dog adjust to their new environment.  We are biased toward certified trainers so look for CPDT certifications when possible.  Working with a trainer can help you understand how your behavior is influencing your dog’s behavior and that is often the starting point for a well behaved dog.
  3. Mental stimulation.  Like people, dog’s need both physical stimulation (i.e., exercise) as well as mental stimulation.  Most dog’s enjoy having a ‘job to do’, (particularly working breeds) and other mental challenges to keep them sharp and focused.  We use dog games, special types of exercise drills, ‘find the food’, and other fun activities to fulfill our dog’s needs for mental stimulation.

We will turn it over to our readers too – does anyone else have advice for Lenny’s mom?


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  1. We would say some longer walks as 15 mins is not much and not always the same route because something different provides exercise and mental stimulation and maybe some dog board games or one of those balls that dispenses food if you roll it around, they keep us pups busy for a while.
    emma recently posted…Contemplation | GBGV | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Great ideas – Jack & Maggie love those treat toys – me too as it keeps them occupied for a good 30 minutes sometimes!

  2. Oh, good advice! And Emma is spot on about the puzzle toys for dogs! Lenny’s mom can make one out of a plastic container with a screw on lid. The kind pretzels come in?
    Flea recently posted…Blog Paws and MoreMy Profile

    • Perfect and inexpensive solution!

  3. Great advice, Slimdoggy, Emma and Flea. Dogs also get a lot of energy out playing with each other. If Leaping Lenny isn’t up for the crazy party at the off-leash park or doggy day care, play dates are a great way to get social time and exercise- sometimes for people too! And along with mixing up the walk routes for more sniffing stimulation, sometimes a car ride can be simple, supplemental mental stimulation (no eyes out the window without doggles, though!) A short car ride to a 30-60 minute walk/hike often wipes our dogs out more than a 3 hour walk/hike!
    Bethany recently posted…The Pet Pied Piper of Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Play dates are a great idea. Our dogs Sally & Tino used to have a neighbor dog (Lucy) come over and play almost everyday. They didn’t play with each other too much, but when Lucy came they really carried on!

  4. I think this is perfect advice! I’ve read somewhere that for dogs that like to dig making a special digging hole in the yard can help sometimes.
    Ann “Paws” Staub recently posted…New Fish PondMy Profile

    • Our Maggie likes to dig, so I’ve given her a spot in the garden that has the perfect mix of nice soft soil, but close to a tree so she can fight with the roots. She loves it and I’ve managed to limit her digging to that spot. Well, mostly to that spot 🙂

  5. You’ve got some great advice here. I might also recommend a sport for Lenny, such as agility or disc, I find Delilah likes the mental stimulation of learning, it exercises her mind as well as her body. 🙂
    Jodi recently posted…This ‘N That Thursday ~ May 30, 2013My Profile

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