Many owners are familiar with the situation: you treat your pooch to a lovely, open air afternoon in a no-leash dog park. Fido gets to run free, play with friends, and maybe even hang out with you. But instead, he heads straight toward the nearest garbage can, or spends the entire time sniffing the ground, hunting for something nasty to eat.
While ignoring you and being antisocial to other dogs are unfortunate but not truly harmful to the pooch’s health, things that it eats could be, according to Modern Dog magazine. Poisonous plants, chemicals and mushrooms abound in many environments, so it’s better to teach dogs to stick to pet food for their nutrition. Teach your dog not to pick up garbage or other food or non-foodstuffs by using Bitter Apple spray. Spraying this bitter solution on trash or prohibited items in your backyard may teach the pooch not to bother approaching similar things at the park.
You can teach your pooch to spend more time with you by establishing a game the two of you can play together. The Wing-A-Ball is a great toy that will engage both of you in games of tug-o-war or fetch. Your dog may also love fetching a Floppy Disc and returning it to you, or catching it midair from one of your throws.
Modern Dog recommends practicing these new games at home first, where your dog can focus solely on you. After it seems devoted, it is more likely to stay focused on you at the park, which is filled with interesting distractions. Your dog is still likely to wander around on its own, and you should let it in a safe place like a dog park. But make sure to follow it around and reinforce the rules: give it feedback for positive and negative behaviors.
If your pooch is generally independent, even when you’re both at home together, Modern Dog recommends teaching it some basic relationship skills. Make it settle down next to you while relaxing on the couch or periodically during walks, the magazine suggests. Reward with treats like Sweet Potato Chips or PureBites when it gets it right.