Return on Investment

John and I are spending some time cleaning the leaves from the outside plants that are now living in our living room for the winter. I take a cloth with some water and I wipe off some white residue that stubbornly returns to the leaves even after we have sprayed them with some benign mix they gave us at the nursery. I tell John that it is frustrating removing this stuff for it to come back again after the “full- treatment”.

He responds by saying that in reality our plants can’t look very good because we just starting spending some time taking care of them.

This conversation got me thinking about how it is so true that in order to achieve our goals, whatever these might be, we must spend time and effort in reaching them. Same with our dogs, or any goal really.

People want their dog to behave and for him to be a pleasure to live with in spite of the little time they spent either training the dog and/or taking care of the dog’s daily needs.

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This is one area where return on investment truly does make a difference. Areas in which being proactive with our dogs would make a world of difference are:

1. Daily exercise and mental stimulation. Give the dog an opportunity to release some pent up energy and have something to look forward to. At least my dogs begin to get restless after they have been fed, even though the need to wait 1 hr before we engage in rigorous exercise. But yes, they do anticipate their daily routine of training and exercise.

2. Establishing clear household rules while making sure your dog can understand them- don’t assume your dog understand them just because you keep repeating them over and over again! Real learning needs to take place.

3. For example: Decide if your dog is allowed on the furniture or some furniture or not all- your choice. If your dog gets on the furniture or the “wrong” furniture, re-direct, gently by asking your dog off it and then tell your dog exactly what you want him to do instead. This drill must be repeated many, many times. Yelling or even asking nicely does not guarantee that your dog has understood what you want him to do instead of getting on the furniture.

4. Also, as important, if you think your dog is getting on your furniture to warrant some warmth or comfort, make sure you provided that for your dog. Most dogs want up on the sofa for that reason and who can blame them? Perhaps they get on the sofa also because it smells like us, so if your pup is the clingy type, provide one of your non-laundered t-shirt so that your dog can have on his bed if you will be leaving him alone. This might provide a lot of comfort. I am a very strong supporter of the idea of researching the motivation (or need) behind a behavior. If, for instance, your dog enjoys looking out the window, allow him to do so when you are at home. I don’t advise allowing this when the dog is alone if your dog is the type that will bark at anything or anyone passing by. A great part of dog parenting is exactly that to provide what our dogs need/want when at all possible.

Just saying “no” without the allowance for something else that targets the specific need: companionship, comfort, safety, stimulation, etc. is not really partnering with our dogs.
The behavior of dogs jumping up to greet is a great example of how one-sided we can be with our dogs. Most people really dislike having their dog jump on them or someone else for that matter and what they want is for the behavior to stop pronto! But wait! Have we investigated why is it that the pup is jumping? I can tell you that dogs greet by licking each other’s muzzles – a vestige of their “wolfy” past. As our companions, they extend the same greeting to us. Since we are erect they have no other choice than to jump up in an effort to reach our mouth. Now that we are aware of the reason behind the behavior, how can we provide our pup with another outlet that is not jumping up while fulfilling their requirement of engaging doggy-style in social graces?

Nothing makes my job more satisfying than knowing that I helped my client with their dog’s behavior and that I also found a way to satisfy what the dog wants. I invite you to invest daily in making decisions and household rules that takes your dog into consideration. Your dog will thank you for this, I guarantee! ☺