Digging, Chewing, Chasing, Barking: Instinctive Drives you Love or Hate?

 First published at www.positively.com and reprinted with permission

Dog prey drive, bad dog behavior, dog training | Digging, Chewing, Chasing Barking: Instinctive drives you love or hate? | #newpuppy, #dogbarking, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Instinctive drives are hard-wired behaviours with which we all come equipped. The most obvious one would be eating. We all have to eat. And trying to suppress that desire will only drive it underground. If someone’s hungry and is prevented from eating, they will steal food. If you try to control something that strongly embedded, you’ll get evasive and deceitful responses.

So too with many of the behaviours we see in our dogs. Taken to excess, these compulsions would become annoying or even dangerous. But if you can accommodate them - by giving your dog an outlet for his natural inclinations - you’ll have no trouble with them.

Don’t fight nature! 

The Four Instinctive Drives people struggle with

There are four instinctive drives that people tend to complain about most. Contrary to popular perception, all dogs don’t do all these things. It’s not something you have to resign yourself to when you get a puppy. Many dogs will indulge them just a little, some just during puppyhood, and some not at all. But they can all be modified without taking the dog’s enjoyment and basic needs away from him!

Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Digging

Particularly evident in earth dogs - terriers, ratters - though by no means confined to them. Provide digging opportunities for your digger! 


  • Half-bury old bones, plastic bottles and such like in a part of the garden you earmark for digging. Don’t leave your dog outside unattended - telling him off after the event is a waste of time. As soon as he starts digging, run excitedly to your dig-spot and start digging yourself. Encourage him to dig himself to a standstill!


  • Indoors you can play “Dig for the Toy (or Person) Under the Duvet” games. Be sure to protect the person’s face from those ravaging claws. This exciting game usually results in much laughter all round! Let them dig their bed to bits. Instead of one boring piece of padded bed, give them lots of cushions and blankets they can rearrange and tunnel into. They enjoy the release of energy in ferocious digging, so they need to be able to do it. So what if they damage their bed? It’s their bed. And you can get a new one if they shred it. 


  • Digging often wanes with age. My Border Collie Rollo used to pounce on the grass and dig as a puppy - clearly he could hear something creeping about in the earth. He lets the underground traffic of mice and beetles carry on unheeded now. I captured the entertaining pouncing action though, and he’ll still rear up and dive when I say “Rabbit!” Cricket the Whippet enjoys digging so much that she is encouraged to dig her bed, and we’ve kept that behaviour of frantic digging going - long past puppyhood!

2. Chewing

If you don’t want her to chew your things, then you need to supply her with plenty of her things that she can chew. 


  • Large bones she really has to stand on and fight with are the very, very best and most popular chew toys. Choose raw beef bones - ribs or larger. She’ll soon strip off anything fleshy and happily gnaw the clean bones for months. I have a multi-dog household and there are never any bone-fights.


  • Rawhide chews are not the natural product you may think them to be. They’re heavily processed and may have lots of additives and junk. 


  • Food-toys are great to soothe anxious chewers and occupy those jaws safely. You can use anything you have handy to fill them: squeezy cheese, liver pate, peanut butter (additive-free), last night’s left-over pasta and sauce. Freezing them makes them last longer. Kibble works well in containers that have to be rolled or wobbled to give up their bounty.


  • All discarded containers (like cereal boxes, toilet roll middles, plastic bottles, for instance) can become food toys. The dogs are welcome to shred them and rip them apart to reach the goodies inside. Ripping and tearing is enormously satisfying for them. 


  • I would not want to give my puppy anything to chew now that I didn’t want her to chew later. Old shoes, old jumpers, best Jimmy Choos, favourite blouse: how can she tell the difference? You can launder and recycle old clothes into plaited dog ropes.
Dog prey drive, bad dog behavior, dog training | Digging, Chewing, Chasing Barking: Instinctive drives you love or hate? | #newpuppy, #dogbarking, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

3. Chasing

Chasing - you or dog-friends - in a safe area is fine. Hurtling across a road chasing a squirrel is not.


  • Equal chasing - taking turns to chase each other - makes for great excitement. In a good game dogs will adjust their pace to suit their playmate. They take turns at being chaser and chasee. The game can be fast, but not intense.


  • Flat-out, head-down chasing - leg-biting, flank-grabbing, frustrated barking - are not good. You’ll end up at the Vet with a dog needing stitches. Teach your frustrated chaser to hold a toy in his mouth when chasing. Hanging on to the toy gives him something else to focus on and bite down onto. It muffles the woofs too! If he can’t chase nicely, with or without a toy to hold, then he doesn’t get to chase live things - dogs, people, cats, etc. Some herding dogs and sighthounds need to learn how to chase safely, without nipping or grabbing.


  • Chasing crows. As long as the area is safe I’m happy to let mine chase foraging crows off the ground as we approach. They’ll never catch them, so the birds are in no danger. This tends to be a puppy thing, as they give up the unequal contest after a number of failures. But it gives the dog an outlet for that very rewarding surge of energy and focus that comes with a good chase.


  • Teach your dog to chase with rules. A flirt pole is ideal for this. He may not grab it from the air or your hand - he has to wait till you release him to pounce on it. You can build up to this level of self-control. To begin with it will be a massive outlet for his chasing desire. It will also wear him out very fast - great for days when there’s too much energy and too little opportunity to get out and use it up. Regular play with the flirt pole gives my whippet an outlet for her very strong rabbit-chasing instincts, making recalls off rabbits a snap.


  • “You can’t catch me!” A chase game round the garden with a toy reward can be great fun and use up a lot of energy (for both of you!). As long as your dog will come right to you when you want to hold her collar, playing Keep Away is fine.

4. Barking

Some breeds or types of dog are very barky. It’s pointless to attempt to suppress this barking. You will lose. Try channelling it instead.


  • Teach your dog to bark on cue. “Woof!” followed by “Quiet!”, repeat till your ears are ringing. 


  • Pair “Thank you” with a treat. Then thank your dog for alerting you to the serious danger of the mother pushing her pushchair down the road past your house, or the terrifying prospect of invasion from the postman. Reward her for coming to you when you say Thank you - every time. Quite soon you’ll have a dog who draws breath to bark, thinks again and comes trotting to you for a treat. Be sure to reward her mightily for this excellent decision!


  • As soon as your dog starts barking, toss some hard treats or kibble at a hard surface (door, hard floor, cupboard door). She’ll scurry across to gobble them up, and probably look at you for more. Now you have silence and her attention! And all without shouting, yelling, or barking yourself.


  • On our own in a huge forest or an empty beach is the place where my barkers are encouraged to bark themselves silly.



If you choose to share your life with a dog, you have to take the rough with the smooth. But I’ve just given you a load of sandpaper to smooth off the rough edges a bit, without suppression, judgment, or bossiness. Use your dog’s instinctive drives as a starting point for new and exciting games you can enjoy together. 

Key takeaway? Enjoy your dog as he is, not the perfect dog you thought you wanted when you got him.

Much more to learn in our free email course for common dog problems

And if your dog is chasing or barking aggressively, head here for another free email course


And for a thorough change for you and your dog, this online course has daily videos to help you transform all those annoying things about your dog and have her hanging on your every word! (Really. Check it out and see for yourself ...)

If you're starting out with a new puppy, this is the one you'll want




Love the dog - hate the name!

New dog, new rescue dog, new puppy, dog behavior | Love the dog, hate the name? Here's how to give him a new name that you all love! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newrescuedog, #newpuppy, #dognames | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

You’ve been visiting your new dog in the shelter for weeks. You’ve been longing for the moment when you can bring him home. And it’s today!

You’ve got everything prepared. Beds, food, toys, training classes booked … You’re ready to help this little dog forget his past and settle into your home as your pet. 

There’s only one snag … you hate his name. 

The good news - that’s ok: just change it! 

You all need to love your new dog's name - especially him!

The name the dog came in to the shelter with could have a long history of association with bad things. It will constantly remind him of his previous owners (who were either neglectful, uncaring, incapable, dead, or positively nasty), and his ambivalent feelings about that word will be revealed in his response to it. Total lack of response, quite often. The name has become meaningless through being meaningless - or worse - perhaps it has become “poisoned” by always signifying a punishment of some kind. Would you respond to a name which meant “Get over here you bad dog”? I don’t think so!

We all have a history

Is your new dog even housetrained? Get this headache out of the way fast with your free guide to Errorless Housetraining

Some dogs come with no history (they always come with baggage though!) so the shelter staff give him a name. They are very busy and there are often many volunteers at a dogs’ home, so there’s no guarantee that his name was never barked out in frustration or as a telling-off by someone who didn’t realise what a huge effect this could have.

However good and kind the staff and carers were in the shelter; however enlightened and nurturing the system they had - there’s no doubt that a stay in a shelter is a very stressful experience for most dogs. 

So the best plan is to start from scratch.

Choose a name which you like, which represents the perfect dog to you, and which sounds quite different from his previous moniker. 

And be careful what you wish for! Do you really want your dog to be “Trouble”, or “Rumpus”, or “Chaos” …….. These names can become self-fulfilling prophecies - really not what you want! A softer, prettier, name coming out of your mouth will carry softer, gentler thoughts with it. 

I was once told by someone who worked at a shelter in a particularly bad area of her city, that all the dogs that came in were Staffies (NO! Don’t send me hate-mail: I don’t dislike Staffies! It’s just that a lot of people think they’ll fight and that’s why they want them), and she told me that all the males were called “Killer” and all the females were called “Bitch”. Their names clearly show what their owners thought of them. Poor, poor, dogs.

So once you’ve decided on a lovely name which the whole family loves, simply pair that name with good things (more help in this post).

So it’s

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - open garden door to go out

“Rover!” - get lead for a walk

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - muss up his hair

“Rover!” - present dinner bowl

“Rover!” - “get your ball!”, and so on.

It will take Rover no time at all to learn that this new word means very good things when he hears it, giving you the start of your super recall

And you’ll feel that Rover really is your dog. For ever.


Want to create an immediate and lasting bond with your new dog? Have a look at our online course specially for new dogs, or dogs whose training needs a bit of a brush-up!


A roundup of the Old Year - and your plans for the New Year

Dog training, puppy training, 2018 | Plan your dog training year now | ONLINE COURSE | #dogtraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

As we relish the last few days of the holiday season, cuddling up before the fire after bracing winter walks (or, if you’re on the other side of the world - perhaps having a long cool drink by the swimming pool?) we can reflect on the last year. 

    •    What did it do for us?
    •    What did we achieve?
    •    Did we really spend more time training with our dog?
    •    .. or do we just think about it and expect it somehow to happen ;-) ?
    •    Is our relationship with our pet further on than it was last year? 

Reflection is an important part of progress. It’s vital to see what you’ve achieved, and perhaps what you failed to achieve, in order to make sensible and do-able plans for the coming year. We learn all the time what we can and can’t do, where we are strong and where we need a bit of help. 

Last year

Personally, I can say it was a year packed with achievement for me. I published three more books, four more online courses, and hosted a live workshop which was hugely popular. The books are continuing to collect many 5-star reviews on Amazon, and students have voted with their feet by joining the new online courses and their busy support groups.

I’ve started Coco Poodle on competitive Obedience training and have been fortunate to find a fantastic trainer - who has made up several Obedience Champions herself. And Lacy goes from strength to strength, able to cope with almost any situation, especially the important task of monitoring Squeak the Cat’s comings and goings. 

Rollo the Border Collie continues to guard his chickens, and they repay his attentions with plenty of eggs.

Cricket in the learning stage of covering herself with her duvet  

Cricket in the learning stage of covering herself with her duvet


And as for Cricket the Whippet? Well, this year she learnt how to get into a folded duvet and smother herself warmly with it. Quite an achievement for a little woppit. She can now wrap herself up so I don’t have to be forever swaddling her and tucking tail and feet and pointy nose and ears in under the covers.

We’ve been to lots of new places around the country in the van, making new friends and discovering exciting new beaches and forests.

Next year

I’m now planning this coming year, which is set to produce more books, and more online courses! More beaches and more forests. I’ll be planning Coco’s Obedience debut, and teaching all of them more tricks. Even Cricket is now able to stack two beakers …

Dog training, puppy training | Holidays with my four dogs | ONLINE COURSES | #dogtraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com|

To help you reflect, I’ve picked out the five most popular posts on Brilliant Family Dog over the last year - the ones which got most reads, most sharing and prompted most emails - so you can have another look and see if there’s anything you missed. Here they are, in order of popularity: 








I wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive 2018 

    •    Perhaps this is the year you’ll get a cracking recall from your dog? 
    •    Maybe you’ll be able to leave food anywhere by next Christmas without it being scarfed down? 
    •    Maybe your reactive dog will get a bit more confident and able to take more in her stride? 

Make your plans, and go for it! And if you think I can help you - just ask.


Want to be able to train your dog kindly and without frustration? Join the busy students enjoying daily training videos in my new supported online courses!

Check out the course for puppies under 9 months


Beware the deadly mince pie! Christmas hazards for dogs

Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, Christmas, dog health | Some foods are dangerous for dogs | CLICK FOR THE LIST | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #doghealth, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

In the excitement of Christmas Eve, somehow Jessie managed to scarf down a six-pack of mince pies. The shredded packet was all the evidence needed, plus an unusually quiet Jessie.

Fortunately Jessie’s owner knew the seriousness of the situation - she knew that raisins can be fatal to a dog - and rushed her to the vet without waiting for her to get sicker.

And that’s where Jessie stayed over the Christmas break, in intensive care, on a drip, while they worked to save her kidneys. 

That story has a happy ending. Jessie came back home, weak and tired - but with fully functioning kidneys. It was a harsh, frightening, and probably very expensive lesson for Jessie’s family. You can be sure there’ll be no mince pies left lying around in that house in future!

Nor any Christmas cake, fruit cake, chocolate, chocolate with raisins, headache pills, artificial sweeteners, slug pellets, rat poison - the list goes on. 

Not to mention rubber bands, paper clips, mothballs, small pebbles, cooked poultry, wooden meat skewers, plastic meat wrapping, and elastic netting and string for parcelling meat.


Check out my new online Dog Training Course and Puppy Training Course teaching new dog and puppy owners to achieve lasting results through six weeks of dog-friendly coaching


The world is such a dangerous place! 

Not really. We don’t need to get anxious about it. Parents of toddlers automatically keep the area clear of known hazards.

We just need to know about a few hazards that are peculiar to the dog.

Like raisins and chocolate, for instance.

Who’d have thought the humble mince pie could cause so much trouble?

Leave It!

“I know he's only a puppy, but …” What you expect is what you get!

New Puppy? | Superb online Puppy Training Course with daily video lessons! | CLICK FOR DETAILS | #newpuppy, #puppypottytraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

The lady on the phone sounded harassed. 

She was ringing to look for help with her 16-week-old puppy. 

I asked her how her puppy was doing, and she replied:

“He’s very bitey, and he jumps up on everyone. I can’t tell you how many things he’s destroyed. I’m looking forward to him being clean and dry in the house - we’re not there yet. I know he’s only a puppy, so perhaps I’m expecting too much.”

No! You’re expecting far too little!

I had to explain to this caring owner that she was asking too little of her puppy, and instead of giving him the chance to grow, she was keeping him a baby.

With the exception of the jumping up, which can take longer (more anon), all of these things should be resolved by 10-12 weeks.

The sooner you start, the better!

And the longer you leave it, the more you have to undo!

That’s why I welcome puppies at Puppy Class from 9 weeks of age. And my own puppies are learning from the moment they come through the door - at 7 or 8 weeks.

The new arrival

When your puppy first arrives, it’s very simple to lay down the ground rules. He’s tiny, a bit anxious, eager to please, ready to learn, bursting with enthusiasm, and he needs to sleep most of the time. What better time to start building a solid relationship of trust?

Using a crate from Day 1 answers most of the problems this lady was having. If a crate is not possible, then at least have a puppy playpen or baby-gates. But a crate is best and will establish firm boundaries for the future.

1. If he gets too bitey in play, this is a sure sign that he’s overtired and needs a nap: into the crate for a while for a restorative ziz

2. Always wait till he’s stopped bouncing before you open the crate door - you may need to walk away from the crate and come back a good few times before he realises that staying still opens the door, but bouncing keeps it shut. Then greet him at his level as he emerges while you clip the lead on and whiz him out to the garden for a pee.

3. He can’t destroy anything if he’s in his crate with his chewtoys at those times when you can’t be actively supervising him. Bliss! Remember he needs oceans of sleep. If he’s been awake for an hour you’re back to No.1 above.

4. Housetraining is a breeze when you use the crate and some simple rules. Free download here


Check out my new online Puppy Training Course  teaching new dog and puppy owners to achieve lasting results through six weeks of dog-friendly coaching


I don’t want my dog to think the crate is a punishment

I don’t know why I sometimes meet resistance to the use of a crate. 

Most parents will use a cot for their baby or toddler to ensure that she’s safe and secure when left alone. The crate is the exact same thing for a puppy. 

There is no hint of punishment. So, just as with your baby, put the puppy in the crate, shut the crate door, and leave the room. 

He’s safe. He can sleep. A well-reared puppy is unlikely to soil his bed. You can relax and do something else for a while.

And know that you’re putting your puppy on the path to becoming a Brilliant Family Dog right from the start.

It’s all about connection

If you can make a connection with your dog, you can build trust, understanding, confidence. 

The quickest and best way to make this connection is through Choice Training.  Have a look at how fast people were getting results on my recent 5 day online Workshop:

Chewie waits patiently instead of jumping up to steal the food!

Chewie waits patiently instead of jumping up to steal the food!

“Just want to say a massive thank you for the 5 day Workshop. Chewie would jump up and try and grab and bite me if I was prepping food. Now he’s lying down with treats dropping. Loving his focus.”
Jan & Chewie

“Thank you Beverley from Molly and me! We have enjoyed the workshop immensely and made a lot of progress in a short time.”  Robin & Molly

“Bonnie and I are having great fun with the Sit Game - all round the house and outside too. Feels like she’s listening better and I’m more relevant to her when there’s distractions (and she’s a working cocker spaniel with a history of pulling like a train!).”
Sheila & Bonnie

“Really enjoying the Workshop. Willow now getting so much better and more eye contact. Thank you for all your time and hard work putting this together.”
Pat & Willow and Poppy

“I was amazed at the results encountered during your 5-day workshop and could not wait to get started on this course*.”
Scott & Gabriel and Gizmo


*What course is Scott talking about? Our new online Puppy and Dog Courses! 

Want to join us and get results like this?  Yes - as you can see above, you CAN learn all this online, and transform your life with your dog.

The course is now open for enrolment and you’ll be able to check out the course for yourself before jumping in.

Got an older dog that you need a bit of help with? There’s also a course specially designed for the dog just out of puppyhood

How can I stop my dog doing stuff I don't like?

Dog training, new puppy, puppy training | My dog keeps ... [insert annoyance here]! How to stop your dog doing stuff you don’t like | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

People are often looking for an instant fix to something they don’t like. 

Me too! 

I’d like a magic wand to wave over life’s problems. Trouble is, people come to me thinking I can wave a magic wand over their dog’s problems and they won’t have to do a thing. 

A recent query was along the lines of, “My dog runs around barking all day in the garden. How can I stop him?”

You don’t have to be a genius to see that your first step must be - don’t leave him unattended in the garden! You can’t hope to change his behaviour until you’ve changed things enough to prevent him indulging in it.

My dog keeps … [insert annoyance here]!

Here are some starters for you:

    •    Jumping up on the furniture
    •    Raiding the bin
    •    Running off on walks
    •    Barking
    •    Destroying shoes
    •    you name it

Whenever someone tells me one of these things, I have one (smug) question:

“Where were you when he was doing all this?”

If you cannot yet trust your dog in any of these areas, then you shouldn’t give him the freedom to carry on doing what you don't like!

Practice makes Perfect - this doesn’t just apply to piano and tennis! 

Every time your dog indulges in one of these annoying activities he’s getting more fun from it, and getting better at it. It becomes a habit - and we all know how hard habits can be to break.

The good news is that good habits are just as hard to break as bad ones.
Free online training workshop for you and your dog!

Free online training workshop for you and your dog!

  • If your toddler had a fascination for the oven, you wouldn’t be leaving her unattended in the kitchen.
  • If your 6-year-old is a danger on his bike, you wouldn’t let him out on the road on his own.
  • If your teenager was beginning to mix with the wrong crowd, you wouldn’t be cheerily waving him goodbye of an evening, knowing you’ll be finding him in the police station later that night.

So if your dog is doing something you don’t like, the first thing to do is make sure he can’t do it. 

  • You can shut the door to the front room when you’re not there (this will prevent chewing the furniture and barking at the window). 
  • You keep your dog in the same space (room/garden) as you so he can’t chew shoes, raid bins, dig up the flowerbeds, bark at the moon. 
  • And if he runs off on walks - you use a long line so that he can roam but not ramble. 

That's just for starters ...

Now that isn’t the end of the story. And none of this should be forever. 

Once you’ve got a measure of control over the situation, and you’ve removed the frustration and the yelling, you can start to re-teach your dog what you’d like him to do. 

Dogs don’t exist in a vacuum. They can’t NOT do something - they’re doers. 

So once you’ve eliminated what you don’t like, the way is open to change your dog’s habits to what you do like.

So come and join our free 5-day Workshop today! 5 days of free online training, with videos, text, and live broadcasts. You’ll get to meet a host of other lovely dog-owners who are looking to improve the connection between them and their dogs.


Check out my new online Dog Training Course and Puppy Training Course teaching new dog and puppy owners to achieve lasting results through six weeks of dog-friendly coaching





All text and images © Copyright 2018 Beverley Courtney