Ask Crystal: Barky Dog Problems

Dear Crystal, 

I adopted a little Golden Retriever mix puppy when he was 7 weeks old. To say that this puppy has been challenging is an understatement. He is the noise-st puppy I have ever had and he was like that from the beginning. He is now a year and a half old. Things have mostly gotten better except for in the evening when he tends to throw a fit and stands at barks at me or my other dog. I feed him through enrichment toys and that helps some. He isn’t into playing fetch, so it is hard to exercise him. I am at my wit’s end! What can I do? 


Frustrated and Exhausted 

Dear Frustrated,

I am so sorry to hear you are having trouble with your puppy and I applaud you for sticking with it through the hard times. I know how frustrating it can be when your puppy is throwing a temper tantrum and just won’t seem to quiet down. Luckily, there are a lot of fun and creative ways that you can tire a pup out beyond traditional games like fetch and tug. I will be happy to give you some ideas and hopefully a few of them will resonate with your pup and be a good fit. Many of these tips work with things we find around the house.

If you have an old treadmill that has ended up as a hat rack, dust that bad boy off and see if your dog wants to walk in place. If you pup is a confident guy, it shouldn’t take too much conditioning to get him used to it. Start with the treadmill off and feed him treats for coming near the tread. Slowly start to move the treats onto the tread until you can get him to step on top. Feed lots of treats just for standing on a still tread. Next turn on the treadmill while he isn’t on it and feed treats. The last step is very slowly turning it on and feeding lots of amazing treats. Over time you can start to speed up the treadmill as he is able to tolerate it.

If you have stairs, you can have your dog walk up and down the stairs one stair at a time, feeding a treat for each step. If you don’t have stairs, you can make your own with couch cushions or other household items.

Check out the Manners Minder training device. This is basically a remote- control feeding station. Place the device on the opposite end of a hallway. Use the remote to distribute treats and then call your dog back to you. Repeat and the dog will have lots of fun running back and forth and you can practice his recall.

  • Another great way to practice recall is hide and seek. Dogs absolutely love this game and when dogs are having fun, training is going to be reinforced even more strongly than with just food alone. Have one family member hold the dog and then hide somewhere the dog can’t see you. Don’t make it too hard at first, it is just a dog. Maybe hide somewhere he can see you a little bit like around a corner. As your dog starts to get the game, you can make your hiding places harder.
  • Get your dog to chase you. This is a great game for when your dog gets away from your accidently. Hold your dog’s collar, give them a little touch and run the opposite direction yelling, “chase me!” Run around the house getting him to chase you.
  • You can also do round robin recalls with family by standing on opposite ends of the house and calling the dog to different family members. When they get to you, cheer for them and feed a treat. If you notice that the dog is anticipating that he is just going to be called back and forth then mix it up and have a different person call him.
  • The search game you will have a cookie in your hand. Hold the dog by his collar. Let the dog see the cookie. Toss the cookie and say “search” and release the dog’s collar so they can grab it.
  • Make an obstacle course in your house of homemade items. Lie couch cushions in a row for your dog to walk on. Use a broomstick resting on two chairs as a jump. Place random objects in a line for your dog to weave through.

Try out some nose games with your dog. Sniffing is relaxing for dogs and It lowers the pulse. You can hide a treat under a cup. When your dog moves towards the cup, lift the cup and let him eat the treat. As he starts to get the game, add another cup and move them around like a shell game. Eventually, you can add a third cup. Teach a Find it cue by tossing treats on the ground and saying “find it”. You can use this cue to distract your dog when he sees something that will get him over aroused and to bring him back into a calm state. You can also later use the cue to hide treats around the house.

You can use an old yoga mat or towel to roll up treats in. Leave a couple of treats on the edge of the yoga mat and your dog can use his nose to unroll the yoga mat and get the treats.

Try out decompression walks or as I like to call them sniffy walks. Use a long line which is a leash of 10-15 feet and allow the dog to walk where they would like to walk. Allow them to sniff as long as they want to. You can encourage them to sniff by playing find it and toss treats in the grass.

If the weather is nice and warm, try out swimming with your pup. Swimming is a very tiring exercise and a Golden should be really into swimming. You can also see if your pup would like to ride in a canoe or kayak. The new experience will go a long way to tire him out.

Don’t forget to add in chews every day. Dogs need to chew to keep their teeth and jaws healthy and it is very relaxing for them. Licking is also very relaxing for dogs. Consider adding in a licking toy to your dog’s daily routine. You can purchase Lickimats or Kongs or use silicone pot holders.

Even though it’s not physical exercise, training goes a long way to tiring a dog out. Consider adding one more training session into your day. I would recommend teaching a relax on a mat for your dog since he seems like he has issues calming himself. This exercise teaches the dog to go lay down on a mat when he doesn’t know what else to do and teaches him how to self soothe, Check out for more information,

I hope that some of these tips will be something that your dog enjoys participating in. If you can add one or two things in it should go a long way to helping him calm down when the evening crazies hit! Good luck!

Until next time,



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