As an animal person who has spent 20 years helping people better understand their pets, the movie Marley and Me was a bit stressful. While everyone was giggling and laughing at Marley’s on-screen antics, I found myself clutching my seat and making mental notes of what they could do to get Marley under control.
I can relate to the destruction a new puppy can wreak on a home, but I also know there are lots of things that people with Marley-like pups can do to keep their new puppy from developing bad habits. It’s one thing to laugh at a puppy chewing on a shoe; it’s quite another to see a grown dog tearing up the sofa.
“Wait, don’t leave him in the cardboard box in the garage.” As soon as Marley was placed in the box in the garage, I knew it was only a matter of minutes (or seconds) before the puppy would climb out and get into trouble. And while it’s simply amazing to see the kind of devastation a puppy can wreak in a short period of time (did he really chew the drywall?), there is also the risk of the puppy being hurt or injured too, requiring a trip to the emergency vet.
Remedy: Crate train your puppy. While most people may not have known about crate training 10 years ago, it is the best solution today in getting a puppy off to a good start. Puppies need constant supervision. Crate training limits your puppy’s access to the house until he learns the rules and keeps him from developing bad habits, like chewing up the furniture, digging under fences, and destroying the home. Puppies shouldn’t be kept in crates all day, of course, but they should be trained to be happy and content in their crate when you can’t be around to supervise their behavior. Dogs are den animals and really like to have a safe place to hang out when things are hectic all around.
“You’re going to put a leash on that dog, aren’t you?” Marley didn’t always have a leash on. This made me a little crazy because I know how quickly a puppy or adult dog can bolt when distracted and how hard it can be to catch the little guy. I have yet to see a human who can catch a running dog, unless, of course, the dog is running towards them. Only then do you have half a chance.
Remedy: Keep your dog on a leash when you are out and about. Even if you have a well-behaved dog that comes when you call, you may find yourself in an emergency that requires you to grab that leash for control.
“Uhhh…is that dog riding in your lap while you’re driving?” Because puppies always want to be with you, it’s easy to give in to a new pup who wants to ride in your lap. But as we see with Marley, big dogs don’t make good lap dogs, especially in the front seat of a car. As an adult dog, Marley continues his puppy habit of riding in his best friend’s lap, hanging his head out the window – and whoops, even stepping out of the car. (It’s really very funny in the movie, but could lead to an accident in real-life if Owen Wilson is not around to hold onto your dog’s back end.)
Remedy: Make your dog ride in a crate or at least safe and secure in a back seat. This will prevent your dog from bothering you while you are driving and will keep him or her safe too.
What I appreciate most about Marley’s family is their willingness to put up with his destructive behavior because he was, after all, “family.” I admire their fortitude — and grace. Few pet owners would have been so forgiving.
Dogs who are destructive though are not lost causes. In fact, they are often very smart, energetic, full-of-life dogs that simply have developed some bad habits early on and need some re-direction. While it can be difficult to stop a bad behavior, you can often give a dog a new behavior to replace the old one. Lots of training can get them busy doing other things than destroying the house. But obviously, the fewer bad habits you can prevent from the start, the easier any future training will go with your dog.
Again, check out crate training. It’s never too late.