Scratched-up doors, chewed-up shoes and hair everywhere. Sound familiar? Cesar Millan, the world-famous host of the National Geographic Channel's The Dog Whisperer, and a new spokesman for Swiffer, offers advice for dealing with common canine behavior issues that can wreak havoc on your household.
A lot of dog owners have problems with dogs tearing up the furniture and chewing things around the house. What's the most destructive dog you've ever seen in your career?
There was a woman a couple years ago who had a Mastiff that had just torn the house to bits -- the furniture, the drywall, everything. The only thing he hadn't gotten to was the ceiling! I walked in and thought, Someone lives here? We had to do the initial consultation outside because it was so bad.
How do you even begin to deal with a dog like that?
It starts with a good, fast walk. And that's not a walk where the dog is peeing on every tree and barking at every other dog on the street. That will just put him in an excited state. Then when you lock him up inside the house with that kind of energy, he's more likely to be destructive. You want him in a calm submissive state, and a walk is the best way to get that.
What else can people do to alleviate separation anxiety, and the destructive behavior that can come with it?
The reality is that most people have to go to work and leave their dogs alone for several hours a day. So you need to get the dog, right from puppyhood, used to that reality. When you're home, don't let the dog follow you around from room to room - set up some separation even when you're home so that the dog gets used to being alone and sees that it's ok.
Another common destructive behavior is shoe-chewing, especially among puppies. What are your tips for dealing with that?
Dogs always seem to chew on your best shoes, not your sneakers! That's partly because of the association they have with those - you usually put on your work shoes right before you leave the dog alone for the day. It's also because the smell of high-quality leather shoes is closer to a smell in nature. And it's because of the energy associated with that shoe - dogs pick up on good energy, bad energy, and most women have a good energy associated with their favorite shoes.
What you need to do with a puppy is claim the shoe as yours and teach him that it's not for chewing. Imagine an invisible barrier around the shoe that your dog cannot cross. Use your energy and your body to block the puppy's attempts to reach and chew on the shoe. If you catch the puppy chewing or mouthing the shoe, give a gentle but firm correction to show the puppy that this behavior is not acceptable. With time, the puppy will learn that your shoes are off limits.
What about the dog that always gets up on the furniture, especially when you leave for the day, leaving his hair all over it?
It's all about discipline and consistency. If you decide your dog is only allowed on the couch when you invite him, then you have to stick to that rule when you're home. Think of the way cats and dogs are when they're living together, cats are always in charge. When you take the cat to the vet, the dog doesn't mess with the cat's things because he knows the rules. You have to be just as consistent to be a good pack leader. You have to decide, which road are you choosing: Is it a zigzag road or a nice, straight road that lets you get what you want from your dog?