Dog’s Eye View: Relationship more important than size
November 18, 2017
All too often I hear the comment, "He gets enough exercise, we have 5 acres for him to run on. He's outside all day long."
I think you can see where I'm going with this. It's not the size of the yard that matters. It's the relationship you build out there. Or just as important, it's the relationship you build inside your home. Most of our dogs are meant to be companion animals. It's up to us to teach them how to successfully live inside our home. Being "animals" first, they were not born to hold themselves to the same cleanliness standards that we humans expect. In the wild, they would poop when the urge hits, eat what's easily available and climb on what gets in their way. Inside your home, that translates into either a multitude of conflicts or educational opportunities!
Potty training is only as successful as the schedule we create to remind the pup to go outside. Teach him the reward for going to a specific place is worth his while. If you leave your peanut butter sandwich on the coffee table, it's fair game. And if the dog is successful once in helping himself to your lunch, that behavior becomes robust!
With my new dog "Ruby," I must be on my toes constantly. She has limited indoor skills at nine months, so we are playing "catch up" with her puppy training. This new pup is refreshing my skills as a puppy trainer. If I can't hear her I go check on her; just like my son when he was 2 years old. The process of teaching her what is "off limits" needs constant reinforcement. At this stage everything goes in her mouth. I use several treat-dispensing toys and chew bones to redirect her youthful energy to acceptable objects. She is learning from me and from the environment she lives in.
So, what if the dog lives outside full-time? My question to this lifestyle: Why did you get this dog? Is he a true companion dog? And living outside does nothing to build a companion dog relationship. This dog belongs to the environment. He's a loner and makes most of his own rules. His "person" puts food out and checks the water bowl and maybe throws sticks for him. The longest conversation he has is while scooping the poop! What a waste! No pun intended, this dog is being deprived of education and experience. He hasn't learned about life and living with humans. The extent of his experience might be going to the veterinary clinic for his yearly wellness check. He hasn't learned to become a social animal with a variety of humans. His person clearly has no idea about the potential of this "animal" to learn coping skills and enjoy training and companionship.
Someone in my neighborhood goes out of town and leaves a sack of dog food outside and a bucket of water. That poor dog's plaintive cries at being alone make my heart ache and my head hurt. When I think about my own dogs seeking me out to rest beside me or ask for interaction I feel lucky. I earned that companionship by taking time to get to know how they learn and how I can help them adapt.
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Lucky for me, size matters! The size of my backyard is just right for running “zoomies,” finding the hidden treats I've tossed out there, helping my husband feed the wild birds or sitting in the sun together. They prefer being where I am. If I'm doing quiet computer work, they might sun themselves on the back porch or find a chew bone. When it gets very quiet, I notice and look for Ruby to be sure she's not found a new adventure — or the socks I just took off!
Laura Tyler is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with 30+ years of experience and has earned Associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work™. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.