Bonnie Bailey of Alexandria, Va., asks:
Gunny seeks out rocks to retrieve, bury, and chew. I am concerned that Gunny will swallow a small one (although most are too big) or crack a tooth. It’s not possible to remove all the rocks in the yard, so I would like to train him away from this behavior and would appreciate your recommendations.
Puppies of all breeds are very much like human babies and toddlers, in that they love to explore the world with their mouths. The good news is that Gunny will most likely outgrow this habit.
Until then, manage the problem by taking him out on a leash. He isn’t ready for unsupervised time in the yard. Take high-value treats with you and use them to redirect him when he goes for the rocks. A favorite toy may work, too. Cheerfully call to him, and when he looks away from the rocks, reward him with the treat or a throw of the toy.
If he must stay outside in the yard, consider fencing a smaller part of it that can be cleared of rocks. Provide him with appropriate chew toys and food puzzles. You might also designate a digging area where you bury small treats, so that he knows this is where he can get his digging fix.
A valuable cue in every dog’s bag of tricks is “Leave it.” Knowing this can help him stay safe throughout his life. Learn how to teach “leave it” here.
Our dogs are cherished members of our families, sharing our lives and providing unconditional love. But all dog owners know that our canine partners have different perspectives on life than our human family members.
If you have ever asked “Why does my dog do that?” then this feature is for you. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline training team will answer your questions on dogs’ behavior and offer training advice to help you and your dog have the best relationship possible. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by professional dog trainers. For more information on the service and how to enroll go to www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.