TEACH YOUR COCKAPOO TO SPEAK

Many dogs seem to love the sound of their own voice. Dogs bark for a number of reasons, to attract attention, out of fear, to express emotion and to warn of potential intruders or possible dangers. For some dog owners, excessive barking can become a problem. Teaching your dog to speak on command, and more importantly to be quiet on command, is a useful skill which you may wish to add to your dogs lessons in obedience.

Start by selecting appropriate command words which should be short and easily remembered. Words with one syllable such as bark, talk and speak are good when you want your dog to talk, and hush or quiet when you want him to be silent.

As your dog barks, locate the source of the trigger, perhaps by looking out of the window or the door. Get your dogs attention perhaps with a whistle, or by saying your dogs name. As your dog stops barking, immediately say your quiet command, firmly and in a positive voice. Reinforce the quiet behavior with a treat. Be sure to practice the “quiet” command regularly, but for brief periods of time.

Progress from the “quiet” command to the “speak” command. Have a friend or family member ring the doorbell as this will undoubtedly cause your dog to respond by barking. As your dog barks, give the “speak” command, again in a positive tone of voice. Praise your dog for barking several times in a row with a “good speak”, and reward them with a treat. Repeat the process, commending your dog with a verbal “good speak”, as he barks upon your command.

The “quiet” and “speak” commands go hand in hand and should be practiced together. Command your dog to “speak”, reward his obedience, and then tell him to be “quiet”, and again reward him with a treat when he does as you ask him.

Reward based training can be very effective, and given time, your dog will make the connection when you are trying to command an action which results in a treat for him. Be sure not to spoil your dog and overfeed him on treats to the point where his diet becomes unbalanced.

Remember too, that dogs learn at different levels and paces. Be patient with your dog, and use your own judgment as to how he is progressing. It may be that if your dog has a tendency to bark excessively, you might need to teach him the “quiet” command quite early on. However, if your dog is still a young puppy he may not yet have developed either the desire or ability to bark properly. Give him time to develop a little of his own personality before setting out on a plan of obedience training which is beyond his ability to grasp.

DIGGING DOGS

Dogs have a tendency to dig. Even your beloved cockapoo may tear up your lawn once in a while. It is part of the nature of dogs, and it is instinctive. However, if your dog digs over your carefully manicured garden, then it goes beyond a minor nuisance and can become quite a problem. There are a number of things you can do to minimise the damage of a digging dog.

Why is my dog attracted to my garden?

You first need to understand the reasons why your dog may enjoy digging up your garden. From your dog’s perspective, your garden may be a wonderful playground. It will be full of lots of exciting smells which tug at his sensitive nose. He may be able to hear interesting sounds, perhaps in the gardens of your neighbors. There are potential playthings, from his point of view, such as mice, moles and other small animals.

How to stop digging

Spend some time working in the garden whilst your dog is outside with you. If you have one, set up a hose and sprinkler, and leave it out in the garden, almost like the bait of a trap. If your dog is inquisitive, he will no doubt want to investigate this new device. When he approaches the sprinkler, turn it on, and see his reaction to the water. Many dogs will associate this unwelcome dampening with discipline. However, the discipline is not coming from you, it will probably seem like it is coming from the garden itself in some way.

An alternative method to a sprinkler is a toy water pistol. It may require some waiting time on your part as your dog works up to digging in your garden, but when he does, you can deliver a watery warning that his behavior is not acceptable. Training your dog not to dig in this way will take effort on your part, since you will have to act as though you were not part of the watering, and must ensure that the activity does not become a game which your dog enjoys. If your dog does enjoy receiving a soaking, then using a sprinkler or a water pistol is unlikely to train him out of digging up the garden.

Some dogs dig in the garden and chew upon plants out of boredom. If you find your dog has excess energy, then make the effort to take him out for more exercise during the day. Use a ball to play “fetch” so ┬áthat he have plenty of opportunity to run. If appropriate, allow your dog into the house where he will not be alone. Use toys as a means of keeping him occupied. Fill toys with treats and foods so that the time he spends alone can also be spent in an activity. If you feel that boredom is at the root of your dog’s behavior, you may wish to consider getting another dog as a companion for him. If your lifestyle and family arrangements permit, this may be an ideal solution. Bear in mind though that two dogs left alone can cause a great deal of destruction to a garden. You might want to try retraining your dog out of a digging habit, before adding another potential digger to your family.

If you find that your dog digs at the fences around your garden, it may well be become he can smell something interesting on the other side of the fence. Perhaps there may be another animal he can smell, and he wants to investigate. Spend time filling in any holes or gaps under fencing, using concrete if necessary, so that your dog can’t make his escape into your neighbor’s garden. Some dogs will return to the same places to dig, especially to those potential gaps under the fence. If your dog does so, then try placing some of your dog’s own feces in the area which he keeps coming back to. Dogs do not like the smell of their own excrement, so this will deter him from attempting to dig in that same place again.

If you have tried to discourage your dog from digging, but he still persists, then consider allowing him to have a portion of the garden for himself. Just as you might allocate a sandbox for a toddler to play in, you could allocate a section of bare earth to your dog to play in.

Dig over the soil and partially bury one or two of his toys and a couple of bones. When the area is prepared, bring your dog to his section of the garden, and behave excitedly. If you have left a bone partially buried, your dog will no doubt catch the smell and investigate more thoroughly. As he digs it up, praise him for finding the “treasure”. If your dog returns to digging up your portion of the garden, re-try the “buried treasure” routine until your dog resumes his interest in his section of the garden. This compromise allows you to keep the majority of your garden neat and tidy, whilst also allowing your dog his enjoyment of digging.