I prefer hearing my clients’ success stories, but the “It seemed like a good idea at the time” stories are sometimes pretty entertaining. They often provide me with good real-life stories to share so you might learn from others and perhaps avoid the same mistakes.

This story is about a family with two large breed dogs. One is just over a year old, the other is three years old. For large breed dogs, this means an adolescent dog and one who might be somewhere near the tail end of adolescence.

One of the family members had finished drinking a bottled water. He decided to put some treats in it and give it to the dogs. A cheap version of the “Kong” or other interactive toys in which you put food to keep your dog entertained. (I have many other clients who have given their dogs empty water bottles with which to play.) The dogs thoroughly enjoyed the activity, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. . .

Fast forward to the family members leaving the house for a few hours. The dogs are left loose in the house, since they usually don’t cause any trouble. The people return home to find water all over the floor. And bottled waters that were previously unopened but now have punctures in them and are scattered all over.

You can just imagine what the dogs might have been thinking: “How cool is this! Mom and Dad left us a whole stack of those fun toys with treats inside. Wait a minute, there are no treats in this one, just water! Let’s try this one. No treats in there either! How about this one. . .”

I’m sure the dogs were highly disappointed to find not a single treat in any of those bottles so clearly left within easy reach for them. I’m sure the people were highly disappointed to find a mess and lots of empty water bottles when they returned home. Glad it was just water in those bottles! Fortunately, the people realized that the dogs were not to be blamed for the mess. After all, they were simply playing with something that had been given to them to play with just a short while earlier.

The moral of the story is: be careful what you give your dogs to play with, because they will think that item is always a play option going forward. ALTERNATIVELY, the moral might be, if you are going to give your dog a household non-toy item to use as a toy, you’d better make sure you don’t have any others lying around that you don’t want your dog to use as a toy.