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Wood Chipper

Hi John,

My dog is one year old. He eats woods. We put that bitter apple but the dog eats wood any way. We don’t know what to do anymore.  In the back yard he goes for branches and eats them.  We have to put him on a leash and I wanted to let him roam free.  What can we do?  HELP….

Thanks Lynne

Hi Lynne,

Dogs are like men. In many ways they mature more slowly then the women in their lives might wish and if allowed to roam too free too early there’s a good possibility that down the line it’s going take some poor woman a lot of effort to take him apart and rebuild him in a likeness more in keeping with her concept of the ideal man.

Look at this from the perspective of your dog’s maturity to freedom ratio. Depending on your dog’s breed/size if he’s 1 year in dog years that would put him at 10 to 15 years of age in human years.  I’m going to venture a guess and say that his “roam free” days started when he was about 6 months old or between 7 and 10 in human years. Now add to this the impulsive characteristics that most untrained dogs/men have until they are into their true adult years and you can knock a few maturity years off the birthday cake.

Now add to that how uneven the playing field is as far as athletic ability between the two of you. Off lead he can easily get to sticks, the skunk, the road etc. before you get to him. In my book, “The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template” I identify that one of the corner stones of dog training is found throughout nature as in the world of wolves, apes, humans, elephants etc. and that is good old fashioned supervision. For us that means, “Where are you going? When are you coming home? Who are you going to be with? What’s the phone number you’re going to be at?” For a dog it means a leash.

What with the intellectual superiority we have over our dogs you’d think it would be easier to supervise a dog but then you’d have to have forgotten the physical component. Even if he’s sitting there right beside you, you’re not really supervising him if he can get to the stick before you can get to him. You’ll be able to calculate how fast he got there but he’ll have the stick.

Most pups do what yours does but outgrow it or are trained out of it but yours continues because he finds it satisfying and without your guidance it’s now a full habit. Put him back on a lead. Don’t worry the freedom will come but everything in its time. The length of the leash is directly proportional to how fast you feel that particular day and in that particular place. (Some days they just don’t make them long enough.)

Collect a few of his ‘surrogate bones’ and keep them in the house. When the time is right haul them out and play “Don’t touch the stick or mom will flip her wig. Don’t touch the stick and mom will give you an appropriate toy/a treat/a hug.” You have to do both sides though. If you only give a treat he’ll just think “Whenever I want a toy/treat/hug I have to find a stick.” and then whose training who? You’re bringing the sticks in the house because there are more opportunities for lessons, not to mention you can also teach “Drop it” which is handy for later when they find a fermenting racoon. If you wait until he’s doing it outside, you’re never going to get the job done or it will take forever which leaves the door open to frustration for both of you. If you do it every television commercial when he’s outside and you do the good cop, bad cop routine he’ll have what I call an, “Oh yeah!” moment.

“Stick” to it and he’ll be side stepping sticks and looking for his ball in no time.

John Wade –

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