Not-really-so-secret tips to keeping your dog well-behaved

© Stacy Braslau-Schneck, CPDT


Most family pets are under-exercised. Lack of adequate exercise leads to excess energy, making a dog destructive or “out of control”. Dogs under 3 years of age probably need 30-40 minutes of running and playing to stay in shape, and younger pups (4-12 months) need even more. A yard to run around in is not enough. Dogs are social animals and need motivation to run and play. Remember: A tired dog is a good dog!

Mental Stimulation

Dogs evolved from predators who had to use their brains to succeed, and then dogs were bred by humans to learn and excel at various tasks. Dogs who have little or no opportunity to use their brains bore easily and turn to hobbies like chewing, barking, and digging to entertain themselves. Let your dog work for his food through the use of “chew puzzles”, Kongs, Buster Cubes, and the like. Explore neighborhoods with your dog, and give the dog a “job” like fetching. Train new tricks and show them off!

Social Stimulation

Dogs are social animals who enjoy being around others, humans or dogs. Young dogs and pups must learn canine body language and social skills to avoid being a graceless canine “nerd”. Let your dog meet and interact with other dogs so that they can become fluent in dog body language. Let your dog meet new people so they are not afraid of strangers. (Don’t worry, he’ll still give the alarm if someone breaks into your property!)

Safe Environment

Don’t expect your dog to know how to treat your furniture and personal property. Limit his access to potential damage unless you are there to supervise. Don’t give your pup too much freedom too soon. Use fences, doors, leashes, baby gates and crates to keep your dog out of harm and trouble. For more information, see Quick Fix Tools.


An athlete’s diet with too much protein can give the average house pet too much energy, which can be expressed in destructive behavior. Consider your dog’s needs first, and buy food without added preservatives and colorings. Here’s a quick guide to what to look for in a pet food (pdf file).


Use reward-based, modern training methods to tell your what you do want him to do. Let him show off his knowledge and obedience to gain all of his life’s pleasures. A well-trained dog will be a joy to include in your life’s activities.

All material copyright Stacy Braslau-Schneck.

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