One Dog Digs...The Other is Jealous!

by Michelle Hakala


Donna asks: Is there any help for problem digging in dogs? How do you teach puppies not to bite or jump (playfully) with children? Any tips on housebreaking? How do you teach a dog to stay at home when you live on an unfenced country lot?

Lee & Cindy ask: We have two 6-month old Lhasa Apso siblings (male and female), and the male doesn't like it any time we give attention to the female. At night, they sleep in separate kennels, and when he wakes in the morning he begins to whine until he's put in with her. They aren't fixed yet, but that is upcoming. Any suggestions?

Unfortunately, training dogs is not my best topic. I have two Shetland sheepdogs. One went through obedience training when very young and minds pretty well. The second (we're always stricter with our first child, aren't we?) never went through classes, and never had any one-on-one sessions with me, but managed to pick up quite a bit just from watching the older dog. Both still have problems. The older one, who is now eight, has a problem with wetting on the carpet; and the younger one, who is five, barks. A lot.

But, here are my suggestions. (If any readers have some to add, please send them to me and I'll forward them to Donna and Lee & Candy.) Remember that individual dogs are just that, individuals, and what works for some (or most) might not work for them.

There are two schools of thought on training dogs (that I know of). One is the traditional swat-'em-with-a-rolled-up- newspaper way, and the other is the make-it-a-game-for-the-dog way. The traditional way recommends scolding for bad behavior and rewarding for good behavior. The scolding part *is* important. Tone of voice tells the dog more than the words do, and an angry voice is a punishment by itself. With a lot of dogs, the traditional method works. Sometimes, an obedience course is the best start, because it teaches the dog that you mean business and a few of the basic things s/he's required to learn. An alternative to swatting the dog is isolation. For many dogs, being relegated to the backyard or the crate is worse punishment than the newspaper swat.

The other school of thought involves distracting the dog to encourage good behavior or ignoring bad behavior altogether. In some cases, of course, the behavior cannot be ignored. I can recommend a book on this method, if anyone is interested.

Specifically, I don't have any suggestions on digging, or teaching children to handle dogs. With housebreaking, you might try to teach the puppy to go in a certain spot on newspapers (there are 'puppy pads' available now, too, which are supposed to attract the puppy with scent), and then gradually move the newspapers outside. On staying home, there are wireless perimeter fences available, but they aren't cheap. There might be a place where you can rent one first to see if it'll work for you first. We rented one of the anti-barking collars before we purchased it. With the Lhasa Apsos, neutering and spaying should help your problem. At the least, you can allow the dogs to sleep in the same kennel. Hard as it may be, the best way to stop him from whining is to ignore it. As soon as you relent and put him in with her, you've reinforced that whining gets him what he wants. (Of course, the neighbors might object!)

Good luck with your dogs, and just so you don't feel alone: it always feels like your new puppy just doesn't learn things as fast as your last dog did.

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