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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 29 October 2002 Issue


Dog Needs a Job

A family has just adopted a 'rescued' dog from a local shelter.  Spike is a sweet dog and they love him.  Everyone's happy, except when the humans get home at night. By the evening, Spike has chewed up his stuffed animal.  There's stuffing strewn all over the house, it's a huge mess and Spike's people are mad at him.  They scold him, but to no avail.... What's really going on here?

The family arises in the early morning and feeds and walks Spike.  A big fuss is made over the canine newcomer, with many hugs and the children fighting over who gets to spend the most time with him.  Then everyone goes off to school or work, leaving poor Spike all alone, all day.  What's a dog to do? 

Spike (like any 'small child with a fur coat') needs to be given appropriate activities to engage in while he is alone.  Because he is a relatively mellow, housetrained dog, Spike is allowed to roam throughout three rooms of the house during the day, while alone. His shredding his stuffed animal is an indication of boredom and needs to be addressed immediately.

The scenario: Spike's bed is in an upstairs bedroom, which he does not have access to, but his water and food bowls are in the kitchen, one of the rooms he is allowed in during the day.

Spike's family needs to provide him with a comfortable 'room' of his own.  I recommend purchasing an airline-quality dog crate large enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around in comfortably.  Leave the door open, or better yet, remove the door and stash it in a closet for future use (in case you ever need it).  Place a rugged but very comfortable, washable dogged inside the crate -- something that Spike will absolutely love to sleep on. 

Encourage Spike to go into his crate/ "den."  Whenever Spike is 'on his bed' (in hison).  Place all the toys in the crate and keep them in there. Let him go pick out the ones he wants, but return the toys to the crate at the end of the day. The "Kong" toys are virtually indestructible and I highly recommend them! Get a Kong toy big enough to make chewing a workout, and not small enough to choke on. You can take a butterknife and smear a tablespoon or so of peanut butter on the inside of the Kong toy and put them in the freezer overnight.  Placing them in the freezer makes the peanutbutter harder to get out of the Kong.  Your dog will spend hours licking the good stuff out of the Kong, playing and generally enjoying himself.  Out of peanut butter? Well, let's hope this never happens!  But for variety you can place biscuits or cookies inside the Kong for your dog to dig out.  This doesn't last as long and is better as a short-term project for the dog.

Other good 'busy toys' are; Kong's Goodie Ship, shaped like a small frisbee, you insert your canine companion's favourite treats into the grippers.  Keeps them busy and happy;  A large rope bone for the dog to chew, carry and shake-- these hold scents, which dogs love, are machine washable and some dogs prefer them to hard chews; Nylabones to chew out all their frustrations on; Havaball's interactive Natural Rubber Dental Toys- you fill the hollow ball's center with kibble or treats-- keeps them busy for hours, if you use larger treats inside them;  Gumabone also makes good toys for aggressive chewers--their bumpy Hercules toy kept a rescued pit bull with separation anxiety busy for days and days!  Have a very aggressive chewer? Try Nylabone's Galileo bone.  It's super-heavy and lasts a long time.  Stick to the name-brands mentioned here. There are many impostor brands available for less money, but they tend to splinter, break and are generally inferior in quality and duration.  A red Kong will last a long time, the black Kong toys are even tougher and may last forever.  They are worth their price in gold.

Remember, your dog needs a purpose, needs to occupy his/her time engaged in what she/he feels are useful activities.  Dogs that are bored and/or lonely will act out their frustration, boredom and separation anxiety in a variety of ways; Chewing inappropriate objects; Destroying their stuffed toys; Excessive barking; Pacing are some examples of acting-out.  If your dog is chewing on inappropriate objects, or even furniture, go to your local pet supply store and get some "Bitter Apple" by Grannick's.  This taste deterrent product is a liquid and comes in a handy spray bottle.  It discourages fur biting, hair chewing, hotspots and can also be sprayed directly onto objects you do not want chewed.  Bitter Apple comes in a tube in paste form as well.  (Use caution when applying, as it could stain some surfaces--or so I've heard.) Bitter Apple spray is not permanent, so if your dog is chewing up all your shoes, elevate all of them, pick one and spray with Bitter Apple whenever you leave it out. A dog who grabs an object that's been sprayed with Bitter Apple is likely to never grab that object again!  Dogs can't stand the taste.

Good luck with your dog boredom issues and remember to give your dog(s) lots of love, exercise, 'busy toys' and to be patient with them. Give your dog 'a job' and you will have a happier, more content companion canine!

Love and paw pats, 
Jillouise Breslauer
Companion Animal-Behavior Consultant
e-mail: [email protected]
What Jill Knows, Copyright 2002

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