We've all been there: Your house is buzzing with guests and everyone is having a good time, when your dog interrupts the festivities to do something that is cower-in-a-corner embarrassing. Maybe he peed on your friend's shoe or stuck his tongue in your sister's wine glass. Either way, it's enough to make you cringe and apologize profusely.
While we love our dogs unconditionally, there are certain behaviors that are simply unacceptable, especially in front of company. I spoke with Victoria Schade, a Pet360 expert and author of Secrets of a Dog Trainer: Positive Problem Solving for a Well-Behaved Dog, to identify the top awkward pet moments and how you can deal with them. Here's what she had to say about putting bad behaviors to bed.
Sure, puppies jumping up and down are adorable, but dog owners often make the mistake of encouraging this type of behavior by giving a jumping dog attention. This can make for an uncomfortable moment when you are trying to greet guests and welcome them into your home.
While you can work on training techniques to curb jumping, Schade recommends a quick fix to use if you're in a pinch. "An easy way to manage the behavior is to put your dog on a leash and tether him to a heavy piece of furniture so that you can welcome your guests in without them getting attacked," she says. "The guests can interact with your dog and quickly step out of his 'strike zone' if he starts getting jumpy."
If your pooch is scooting across the floor during a party or gathering, it's not a pretty sight. But Schade says there is usually a medical reason for this type of embarrassing behavior. "Dogs that scoot across the rug are more than likely suffering from impacted anal sacs," she says.
These sacs normally empty naturally when a dog goes to the bathroom, but sometimes the sacs fill up and cause a dog discomfort. "A visit to the vet can help to diagnose and treat the problem," says Schade, who also recommends reevaluating your dog's diet to help prevent scooting problems in the future.
There's no quicker way to lose your appetite at a barbecue than watching your pet eat poop. "This might be the pinnacle of gross canine behaviors," says Schade.
Putting a stop to this disgusting conduct can be tricky. Food additives designed to alter the taste of feces don't always work and changing a dog's diet also offers no guarantees. "Keen management (like setting up baby gates near a cat's litter box) and diligent clean-up, though cumbersome, are the best ways to curb the habit," says Schade. "And teaching your dog a strong 'leave it' command can help when dealing with poop bombs during walks."
"Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Dogs are not racist," explains Schade. But if your dog constantly barks at people who look different than you, it could easily lead to tension between neighbors, coworkers and friends.
If dogs bark at people from different ethnic backgrounds, says Schade, it is probably because he hasn't been exposed to people whose skin looks different than yours and is reacting out of fear. You can correct this behavior by making a positive association to people of different races by using food and treat training.
"Give your dog tons of small delicious treats any time you see someone that normally provokes a reaction from your dog before your dog has a chance to sound off," says Schade. "Continue doing so until you pass the person, and then stop. With consistency, your dog will start to associate people who look different than you with delicious goodies, and your dog will become a neighborhood canine ambassador."
There are few things that make a visit to a friend's home more humiliating than when a dog empties his bladder on your bestie's designer carpet. But even fully-trained dogs can lapse and get the urge to mark territory when they are in a new situation, surrounded by other doggy smells.
"The easiest way to avoid this awkward moment is to be vigilant when visiting friends' homes with your dog," Schade suggests. "Pretend that your dog is not 100 percent potty trained and step up your supervision. Take your dog for a trip outside before you go in, and don't allow your dog to wander the house unattended."
Having your dog waltz into a room of people with a pair of underpants hanging from his mouth is one way to entertain friends, though we doubt it's what you had in mind. A dog that rummages in the laundry basket or in the bathroom trash almost guarantees that a red-cheeked moment of embarrassment is right around the corner.
"Puppy-proof your laundry room and bathroom as if you have an 8-week-old puppy living with you, even if your dog is fully grown," says Schade. "Invest in a snap-lid garbage can or put the trash under the sink, and use baby gates or shut doors to keep your dog from getting in the hamper. You should also provide ample toys and chews so that your dog doesn't feel the need to raid your stuff."
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