Dear Miss Behavior, My pup Toby barks when he looks out the window and sees a person or dog going by. Other times he just continues to bark non-stop inside. He also barks at birds or bunnies when he’s outside which is understandable. I have puppy proofed my back yard but he digs at places by the fence where he might think he can get out, he also digs in the middle of the yard. I take him for 2 walks a day and we spend a lot of time playing in the backyard. Thanks for your help.
There are a couple of issues here. I’ll address digging first, digging is perfectly natural. Dogs dig for several reasons: boredom, to escape the yard, or so they can lie down on the cooler earth underneath the top soil. Most likely Toby’s digging because he’s bored, and he wants to run and chase all the birds and bunnies. Don’t leave Toby alone in the backyard for long periods of time. Be sure to fill all the holes he’s dug, and distract him from digging by giving him something else to do.
The second issue is barking. Dogs also bark for several reasons: boredom, to warn people and animals off their territory, and to get attention. Though part of Toby’s barking is his attempt to protect his territory, at least some of it is out of boredom. Toby needs something to occupy his mind. It’s great he’s getting two walks a day, but you need to exercise his mind as well as his body.
Take him to an obedience class (like the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club’s Obedience Level 1) and begin teaching him some basic obedience. Practice daily so he’ll have a chance to use his mental and physical muscles. You can also try some of the fun interactive dog toys to keep him busy (try a Kong wobbler or a Zanies interactive puzzle). Once you’ve completed the basic class you can teach him tricks, take him to Agility classes or even try Flyball. All of these activities are fun for you and him.
Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation is also extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.
If you have a question for Miss Behavior, please post in the comments below and we’ll feature it in a future column.