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Trapped in the house!

Apparently everybody survived the "Northwest Onslaught," or whatever they were calling that big rainy storm a couple weeks back.

Did your dog get crazy pent-up cabin fever? I know that lots of dogs did! The rain will continue for many more months (welcome to Portland fall/winter/spring!) so probably a good idea to start putting your rainy-day plans together.

First off, dogs tend to react to rainy days in the same way as little kids do! On one of the rainiest days, I was working with an enormous, 1-year-old dog, and I could just SEE the boredom in his face. We were working on impulse control and not soliciting attention while the owner is busy/doing something else, and transitioning from crate management to more freedom in the house, so I had set up at the kitchen table "reading" a magazine, but watching his responses from the corner of my eye, ready to intervene if needed.

He walked back and forth a couple of times through the house, pausing and staring longingly out the window. He half-heartedly attempted to get the other dog to play. He wandered over to me. I gave him a smile "Hello, but I'm busy." He wandered away. You could practically see a thought bubble over his head "THERE'S NOTHING TO DO!"

Then he nosed his way over to the dog bed, which in the past he has chewed destructively. He looked at me, saw that I was "busy," then took a huge chomp of the dog bed, and then -- LOOKED RIGHT BACK AT ME, like, "I've got the dog bed! What're you going to do about it?"

It was pretty clear to me that he was purposely doing this thing just to get some action going. Literally, the dog was purposely being "naughty" out of sheer boredom!

Here are some things that will help if you find that your dog is at this level of sheer boredom!

1) Structured activities and whatever amount of exercise you can provide will help take the edge off. Obedience practice with toy rewards is a good one that you can do inside. The key is to do this at a time you choose, not as a reaction/response to the dogs behavior. So, it should be "It's 3 PM and now we're going to do obedience practice," NOT "The dog is running around like a lunatic so I'd better get out the toys and do some fun interesting obedience practice." Do you see the difference?

2) If your dog tends to be a chewer or get into things, boredom will usually exacerbate the problem. A quick pick-up of items that your bored dog might go for is helpful.

3) Rotate toys. Many dogs have toys all over the place, yet never seem to use them. A great idea is to keep only a minimum of toys in rotation at any point. Then you can produce a "new" toy that will keep the dogs interest fresh.

4) If you'd really like your dog to just lie down and chew a bone or chew toy, but he doesn't seem interested, one thing that often works is to sit down for a minute or two next to him. Hold the chew toy for him and let him "settle in" to his chew. After a minute, slowly put the chew down and move away. By now, the dog is "into" the toy.

5) Try chit-chatting with your dog. I know that all of you secretly talk to your dogs all the time, LOL. But as you move around the house during your rainy-day activities, your dog may be interested in what you're doing. "Should we do the floors now? How about the laundry. Let's go downstairs and do the laundry. Are we missing some socks? Let's go find the socks." Some dogs get really into this. 

6) Do not let your dog provoke you into interacting with it or bringing out new toys and games. The dog I mentioned in the example above is not above trying to provoke interactions. For example, if he is poking at my hands and panting in my face and I turn away, "No, I said I'm busy." Dogs who don't give up might do something like "Oh yeah? How about if I GRAB YOUR SHIRT?" The answer is, No, that's not going to work either. Remove the mouth from your shirt, "No, I said I'm busy." It's attention that the dog is demanding, and thinking of all kinds of ways to get it. Finally this dog truly did give up, and wandered away to take a nap. Success = Peace.

7) Allow correct behavior to "work." For example, when the dog finally lies down, smile and "Thank you, would you like a chew bone?" Or, if the dog comes up politely, you can allow a hand to drift over and pet it as you continue to read or something.

Then check another few thousand times to see if the weather report has changed within the last ten minutes!

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