7 tips for a well-behaved cottage dog

A man with his Labrador retriever dog By 4 PM production/Shutterstock

The cottage can be a challenging environment for a dog. It’s hard to behave with so many exciting distractions: the woods, the wildlife. Then there’s the trauma of thunderstorms and fireworks. Luckily, these simple tips will help your dog stay calm and well-behaved so you can both enjoy your cottage getaway.

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Teach boundaries

Many cottage properties are unfenced, which means your dog can roam if you don’t have them leashed. And that’s dangerous. Teaching your dog where the boundaries are doesn’t guarantee that they won’t ever wander, but it will go a long way to keeping them close to home.

Boundary training involves walking your dog around the perimeter of your property, stopping often to ask for a “Sit” or “Stay.” If you reward your dog for these behaviours inside the boundary, they’ll want to stay on that side of the imaginary line. To help your dog, mark the perimeter with small flags.

Train “Quiet”

Teaching your dog to be quiet on cue will let them know when you’ve had enough of their voice. To train “Quiet,” first encourage your dog to bark with a noise like the doorbell. Then wait for your dog to stop. As soon as they do, reward with a favourite treat. As your dog begins to realize that silence earns a goodie, you can wait for longer and longer periods of quiet before giving the reward. Add your verbal cue when you can predict your dog is about to stop barking.

Teach “Wait” at doorways

Does your dog bolt through open doors? That’s a sure-fire way to end up with a wet dog in the cottage, or a runaway dog when you stop at a rest stop. Instead, teach your dog to wait for permission before going through doorways.

Start at an inside door (for safety). Open the door just a crack and ask your dog to wait. If your dog approaches the door, close it again. If your dog stays away, reward with a treat. As your dog catches on, open the door more and more until you can eventually fit through the doorway, then return to your dog to deliver a reward.

Prevent boredom

Activities at the cottage don’t always include your dog. And bored dogs make their own fun—usually in ways that aren’t fun for you. (Chewed sandals, anyone?) To prevent boredom, provide your dog with mentally stimulating toys. Try chew toys that you can stuff with food; food-releasing puzzle toys are another excellent option

Train bathroom cues

Designate a toilet spot to minimize yard clean-up and prevent your dog from soiling other people’s property. But how do you teach your dog where you want them to go? Potty cues. Whenever your dog is about to go, say “Hurry up” or “Go potty.” Then reward your dog immediately after they eliminate. With enough repetitions, your dog will realize they can earn a treat for doing what comes naturally. When you get to the cottage, take your dog to the chosen toilet spot. Give them their cue so they understand where to do their business.

Manage fear of fireworks and thunderstorms

Ideally, your dog would never have to endure these stresses. But what’s summer without thunderstorms and fireworks? And sadly, dogs don’t enjoy them the way some people do. To ease your dog’s anxiety, move them to an inner room where the sounds are muted and the lightning flashes/fireworks can’t be seen. Then try playing white noise like the TV or radio to help mask the sounds. Finally, give your dog some familiar toys and their dog bed for comfort. If you can, stay with your dog to soothe them in a calm and confident tone. Also consider pheromones—the vapour mimics the pheromones of a nursing mother dog, which helps to alleviate your dog’s fear.

You can help desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks and thunderstorms. Play recordings at an extremely low volume while pairing the noise with treats. If your dog remains comfortable, you can gradually increase the volume.

Teach “Leave it”

Whether it’s eating a poisonous mushroom in the woods or chasing a squirrel, “leave it” tells your dog they can’t have something. Start by teaching your dog to leave food in your hand. Ask your dog to “leave it” then make a fist around the food if they try to eat it. When they back off, reward them. Once your dog understands, you can move the food to the floor and cover it with your hand or foot. Eventually you can expand the cue to include any item your dog shouldn’t pay attention to. Now you can relax knowing that you’re in charge of your dog—not the squirrels.

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