7 easy tips for training your dog

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7 easy tips for training your dog

You only have to leave some dogs alone for 10 minutes for them to wreak havoc in your house. Halifax certified dog trainer Dan Ross has seen clients' sofas torn apart, door frames destroyed and laptops used as thousand-dollar chew toys. "I worked with a dog that actually crashed through the big front window of a house," he says. Here's Ross's advice for curbing your pup's destructive tendencies.

1. Tire out your dog

"A lot of people don't exercise their dogs enough," says Ross. Pent-up energy only intensifies any anxiety a dog may feel when separated from its owner. Depending on breed and age, most dogs need an hour of walking a day, and ideally half of that will be off-leash. Ross suggests investing in a 50-foot length of rope for walks, if your dog is not to be trusted off-leash yet, so your pet can run and play energetically in the park or a field without the opportunity to make its freedom bid.

2. Supervise them through dog teething
Often when a younger dog that's teething doesn't get enough attention it will chew on table legs, baseboards and anything at a lower level. You need to keep an eye on it constantly so you can stop undesirable chewing behaviours immediately.

3. Use a dog crate

If you're busy when you're at home, the best place for your dog is in its crate. "Crating is good, as long as your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down, and as long as your dog's housebroken," says Ross. But he warns that a canine with existing separation anxiety may become even more anxious in a confined space. Introduce the crate for short periods, when you're around in the house, so that your puppy doesn't associate it only with you leaving; the crate should feel like a snug den, not Alcatraz.

4. Reprimand and correct your dog

Bitter-apple sprays and other such anti-chewing products are not necessary, says Ross. "Just watch your dog and go over and scold him if he chews something he shouldn't." You can grab the scruff of your dog's neck or close your hand around its muzzle for a split-second -- both actions that emulate mother dog scolding -- then say "no" sternly and lead your dog away four feet. Wait for 10 seconds after the correction, then give your dog something else acceptable to chew on. Be careful not to do this straight away, or it will seem like a reward.

5. Keep your home clean

If your kids' toys are constantly strewn across floors, how can you expect your dog to differentiate between its rubber bone and G.I. Joe? "I encourage people to pick up their mess," says Ross. Remove anything of value from floor level, and give your pup its own small selection of chew toys. A warning: Raw hide and pig ears are not recommended. They may encourage your dog to develop a taste for leather -- that includes your favourite recliner or shoes -- and they can be a choking hazard or even contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

6. Encourage independence

When you're at home, it's important to get your pet used to alone time, whether crated or just in its bed. "Stop letting your dog follow you room to room and don't let it into the bathroom with you," says Ross.

7. Leave your dog at home without fuss

If you coddle a stressed dog just before heading out, you'll nurture its anxiety and make it miss you more when you're gone. "Don't talk to your dog before you leave. Especially don't get all lovey with him," says Ross. "And try ignoring him the first few minutes you get home, too, until he settles down."

When it comes down to it, dogs are pack animals. They are happiest and most relaxed when their leader is with them. So if you're regularly out of the house for over eight hours at a time, it's only fair to invest in doggie day care or a walker. "Being alone is not a great life for dogs," says Ross.

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7 easy tips for training your dog