Dog’s Eye View: Unchain my heart
November 20, 2013
Steamboat Springs — We've all seen dogs tied up in front of stores and restaurants downtown. Often, the dogs look anxious or worried. Sometimes, they sleep or sit very still while scanning the street and listening. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's hot or cold or windy or snowing. They are tethered, and their owners are not there to intervene on their behalf.
I see people pass by these dogs who seem to not even notice them. I see people stop and pet them, and too often, I see parents encourage their children to pet these dogs.
I believe the owners of tied up dogs are comfortable with this arrangement. It's convenient. Everybody does it, right?
On the other side of this arrangement is the dog, the behavior of which can be described as overt or covert. Overt behavior can be observed by anyone and includes panting, barking and tail wagging. Covert behavior is what's inside of the dog that we can't see, including increased heart rate, thinking or an adrenaline rush.
The owner can control his or her dog because it is chained to a post. What the owner cannot control is what happens when he or she is inside eating or shopping.
There are so many dogs, leashed and loose, that stroll our fun-filled streets that an owner-absent dog doesn't have a chance if an unruly or bully dog harasses it. There's no one there to defend the dog or move it out of the way.
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Perhaps the tied dog wasn't raised with polite children and is barely keeping it together while several kids try to pet it. What if skateboarders roar by with noise and laughter, and the dog never has experienced that excitement? Who doesn't want to pet a dog that might look a little sad because its owner is not there?
But a dog that is lying still with a slowly wagging tail can be fearful or worried.
Counting on your dog's good behavior and calm response in situations like this depends mostly on your presence. Many dogs are experiencing stress when left alone to fend for themselves in this environment.
Your dog is your buddy, your soul mate, your heart, and he's trusting that you'll be there for him.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 25 years of experience.