Engage your dogs in socialization activities to avoid boredom and behavior problems
Photo courtesy of Reliable Pool Solutions
“We give our dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.” —Margery Facklam
Everyone deserves to have a relaxed, confident and well-behaved dog living in his or her home. I call this the well-balanced dog. What happens to our dog when their buddies — its friends, its pack — leave for work every day or go on vacation?
A dog is a pack animal, and it is very difficult for them to be separated from their pack. (In their world, we humans are their fellow pack members). In nature, this situation does not occur. But we expect our dogs to be alone for eight hours a day — sometimes more — and then have a calm dog when we return home.
It is important to look at this from the dog’s perspective. They are cooped up alone all day. They have nothing to do and are not allowed to relieve themselves for eight hours. Here’s what happens. They chew your favorite rug. They counter surf — and they bark at passersby, both animal and human. Can you blame them? They are bored, bored, bored!
My trainer, Cheri Lucas, reminded me: “It is unnatural for a dog to go crazy when a seeing another dog. When we see people going in and out of the grocery store, do we start screaming and waving our arms at the other person?”
This, Cheri says, this the equivalent of what occurs when one dog sees another, unfamiliar dog. Then why do some dogs go crazy when they see another dog? Many dogs often live in a home where they are not exposed to other dogs. Confined and alone all day, a dog can become fearful, insecure and aggressive — and it can become overly protective of its humans.
Most dogs adjust quite well in a human world. While they may not be exposed regularly to other dogs, when they leave their home they are exposed to challenging situations, and they are expected to adapt.
For example, let’s take going to the vet and groomer. When clients ask me why their dog does not like to ride in the car, it is often because they anticipate an unpleasant experience — because this is the only time they ride in the car.
We also expect that our canine friends by some sort of magic will not bark at visitors , or jump on little children and knock them down, or pee excitedly when someone attempts to pet them. Then what happens when they do these things? They get a human screaming at them to stop!
So when dogs are not exposed to new situations and are not taught to be well behaved, we end up with behavior which, according to us humans, is not good dog etiqutte. Our dogs not only need to adapt to human restrictions, but when dogs live in an environment when they are not in contact with other dogs, it is our job to get them out to meet other dogs and have adventures they enjoy.
Going for walks on trails, taking a dog to swim in a lake, taking your dog to walk with other friends and their dogs are all good choices. On the human side, what about taking your dog along when you run errands? How about when you meet a friend for lunch?
All of the restaurants on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor have outdoor seating. I have brought my dogs to join my family for dining al fresco many times. Or maybe swimming — you don’t have to own a Labrador Retriever for your pooch to enjoy water. My Wheaten Terrier liked water more than my Portuguese Water Dog! A kiddie wading pool is is perfect for a dog to enjoy relaxing in the pool all day.
It is important to look at the world from a “dog’s eye view” and give our canine friends some activities that are fun and challenging. It is also important to remember how adaptable dogs are, and that they will go anywhere and do anything with their pack — and you are their pack leader!
Yes indeed. Owning a dog is the best deal we humans can have.
Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training (www.inharmonydogtraining.com) in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-645-4707. Julia provides individual training for dogs and their owners, and also conducts dog training classes at Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.