BEATING DOGGIE BOREDOM
Text by Nancy Marano and photo by Ardeth Baxter
Try seeing your daily routine through your dog's eyes. You go to work, to the store, to your children's activities. But, your dog just stays at home alone waiting for your return.
Your dog's life revolves around you. When you aren't at home, Susie is on her own, not the happiest situation for a pack animal. Usually, she sleeps or entertains herself, but, when she doesn't, trouble is a-paw. At best she is bored and restless. At worst she experiences separation anxiety.
- Dogs spend the better part of each day sleeping, so set up a cozy napping area in your dog's favorite spot, advises Dr. Jacqui Nielson, DVM, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of California at Davis.
- Judi Halliburton, animal behaviorist and author of Raising Rover, suggests taking an old T-shirt, towel or small blanket, rubbing yourself with it and leaving it in the dog's bed as a strong scent reminder of you. It might sound gross to you but it's comforting to the dog.
- Hunger tension can be overcome by leaving a rubber Kong toy, available at most animal supply stores, smeared with peanut butter or honey, and packed with a daily kibble ration. It takes several hours for Susie to liberate all the kibble.
- Make an entertainment center outdoors. Hang toys on a clothesline just high enough so the dog must leap at them. This doesn't require money, just imagination.
- A window or door allows Susie to participate vicariously in outdoor sights and sounds while encouraging her lookout instincts.
- Leave 2-3 toys out for her that are qualitatively different from each other. One might be fuzzy and the other hard, says Imbi Kiiss, director, DOG Guidance Center in Orleans, MA.
- Aerobic exercise and interactive games with you give Susie a chance to expend excess energy.
- Ten to fifteen minutes spent on basic obedience commands each day creates a partnership between you and your dog. It makes Susie a better canine citizen, more confident and mentally alert.
- Most experts agree with certified animal behaviorist Dr. John Wright: "Solve the first dog's problems before getting a second dog. Otherwise you might have two bored dogs instead of one."
- Be prepared for twice the work and expense. Do you have the time and energy for two dogs?
- If you do get another dog, get breeds that are compatible.
Sharing your life with a dog is a huge commitment of love, money and time. Be realistic about your lifestyle and select a breed that fits into it. "Dogs relate to humans as they do to other dogs because that's their only frame of reference," Halliburton says. It is our responsibility to love them and create a healthy, harmonious environment for them.
Nancy Marano is a freelance writer living in Albuquerque. Her “Cat Chat” column has won two certificates of excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association. She shares her life with two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.
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