Basic needsA dog's environment should be designed to satisfy locomotor and investigatory behavioural needs. Many dogs are highly motivated to:
Ignoring these needs creates the risk of the dog choosing inappropriate outlets. This is especially true for younger dogs or dogs that have spent periods in quarantine or other kennels.
Chewing is very important to most dogs; in fact the only game that a normal dog will play on its own is destroying things by chewing them up! If a dog chews the furniture some people may try to discourage the behaviour by removing all chewable things including the dog's chewy toys; the effect is usually to make the problem worse.
It is much better to provide suitable outlets that you can redirect the dog to rather than try to suppress the behaviour completely.
Also, do not assume that dogs will occupy themselves with these games when alone. They are social animals and will generally do more when another social companion is around than they will on their own.
Re-directing a dog's basic needsA dog's normal behaviours can be redirected into specific planned activities. Specific methods include:
This involves a lot of different behaviours including: finding prey, chasing, catching/killing and chewing. All of these can be satisfied individually so that overall motivation to hunt is reduced.
Use your ingenuity to develop new ways of using dog toys and different feeding methods to create interest and variety in the dog's life.
The effect of social interaction It cannot be overemphasised that dogs are social animals and need social play. Moreover, they will often not play unless there is some sort of social facilitation; the presence of a person or another dog. Activity balls and other food searching games can sometimes overcome this by providing positive reinforcement through food rewards. However, many dogs will not play with such toys whilst on their own. They require a competitive or co-operative element. Even another dog may not satisfy this. Usually, owners therefore need to be present in order to stimulate and enhance play.
© Jon Bowen 2000
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