Dog’s Eye View: On demand companionship and the dog | SteamboatToday.com

Dog’s Eye View: On demand companionship and the dog

Laura Tyler/For Steamboat Today

Laura Tyler

We live in an on-demand world these days: movies on demand, a popcorn button on the microwave, instant messaging and online shopping. We can even have a robot vacuum our house while we're away. It seems this instant gratification is taking over, and we're forgetting to work on long-lasting relationships and long-term commitments. We're trying to survive and get ahead in a screaming, fast-paced world.

I had a discussion with a young, successful guy one day. He said he was ready to add a dog to his life. He had one growing up, and this dog was his best friend. They went everywhere together. The whole world was theirs to explore, and when evening came, they settled into bed each night with a big sigh. Life was good. This dog waited for him to get home from school each day so they could resume catching frogs, fishing, running alongside his bicycle and sharing ice cream cones. He missed that and hoped a new dog would fill the void of coming home to an empty apartment each day. He lived alone, worked long hours and often had to go out of town on job-related trips. But he really missed those evenings with his dog close by, desiring that sense of companionship again. When I questioned his time commitment and the need to make this dog a priority in his life, he assured me he could make that happen. We always have the best of intentions.

Jim chose a beautiful German shorthair pointer. He thought about maybe taking up hunting with this young dog. He had wonderful expectations of hiking through fields filled with pheasants and quail with his trusty dog, Max. Jim picked up his new puppy and brought him home for a long weekend prior to going on a business trip. They had a great weekend together, and Jim was feeling that old sensation of companionship he had experienced as a kid as they snuggled in for the evening with Max sleeping by his side. We treasure the touch of soft fur and enjoy the sweet disposition a new puppy offers. Little Max spent the weekend following Jim everywhere, nuzzling his neck and happily playing games.

The following week, Jim left for a two-week business trip. A friend took care of Max while Jim was gone. But this person also worked full-time and left the pup in the backyard with his adult dog. They were fed and put back out every day Jim was gone. When Jim returned from his trip, he couldn't believe how much his pup had grown. But something had changed. The pup was a bit more distant and a lot more troublesome. His house manners were not good. He was not getting the consistent potty training and socialization he needed. Over the next couple of months, Jim worked out of town more frequently and decided the best thing to do would be to board Max at a kennel. This routine continued until Max was becoming less and less social, and adolescent hyperactivity took over. Jim couldn't understand it. He really looked forward to his evenings with Max settling in next to him. He wanted to enjoy that special time in the evening with his dog. He thought they should just pick up where they left off. Max had become an "on demand" dog.

Jim's life as a young child gave him ample opportunities to develop a special relationship and bond with his dog. Now, as an adult, his work and social obligations took precedence over his time with Max. And, ultimately he decided this dog had to go. He was becoming increasingly destructive and anti-social. He'd grown into a powerful, athletic and energetic dog with very little training and very little socialization.

The reality is this: Dog are living, breathing, emotional, needy animals. We bring them into our human household. They are a 24-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week responsibility. They are not a part time/on demand relationship.

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Animal shelters are filled with dogs like Max. The wonderful families who adopt these dogs will be faced with an adolescent or adult dog with very little socialization and few house manners. If you want a part-time dog, volunteer to walk dogs for your local shelter. If you work long hours and travel for days at a time, please carefully consider both sides of the relationship. Your dog needs you. The most important ingredient in any relationship is being present and doing right by the dog living in your household.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.