Too many dogs are abandoned to a chain or pen in the backyard, or given up for adoption because of destructive behaviour. Accepting the responsibility of a dog means being prepared to deal with such situations and to make an effort to change or improve your pet’s behaviour. There are two major reasons why a dog may engage in destructive behaviour, loneliness/boredom, and lack of exercise. While many Guardians may believe their dog’s destructive behaviour is caused by “separation anxiety”, in reality, very few dogs suffer from this psychological panic disorder. Most destructive dogs are lonely, bored or under-exercised. The good news is that these are easily rectified situations.
Loneliness and Boredom
Dogs are social animals, and they can suffer from loneliness when left alone for many hours a day, day after day. Adding another dog to the family is one way of keeping your dog from being lonely, but it is also a big responsibility. Besides the added expense, you must consider whether your dog would enjoy a canine companion. If adding a dog is not possible or practical, consider another type of pet. A cat can be a companion to a gentle dog that is trustworthy with small animals.
Some dogs are more comfortable with a little familiar background noise. A radio or television left on low volume can be comforting. Some dog Guardians hire a reliable student or senior citizen to play with their dog during the day. A game, walk in the park, a cuddle and a treat can brighten the day for a lonely dog.
Toys can also help lessen the loneliness and boredom. In hot weather a wading pool filled with water will keep a big dog amused, and floating a large block of ice in the pool will keep it cool for hours. A watermelon is fun to play with and tasty enough to satisfy a dog with a sweet tooth. But filling the yard with toys is not the key to keeping a dog occupied; rather it is rotating a few toys so the dog doesn’t get bored with anything in particular.
The best remedy for a bored and lonely dog is canine daycare! Daycare provides love and attention, tons of exercise, and the very important socialization skills and manners required by every dog. The staff should be professional, caring individuals who can provide safety, companionship and fun during the day so that your dog is just as tired as you are at the end of it. Canine daycares are available in most cities in towns, and will provide the safe, healthy and fun environment your dog needs to stay out of trouble at home!
All healthy dogs need exercise. Excess energy from lack of exercise is the major cause of destructive behaviour. Exercise needs vary by breed. A Border Collie needs almost continual mental and physical stimulation, a Jack Russell Terrier may need to run 3 to 5 miles a day to keep their excess energy in check, while a Bulldog might be better off with a long walk and a game of fetch. Regardless of breed, any dog beginning a new exercise program should be examined by a veterinarian before exercise has begun.
It is not difficult to exercise a dog. Retrieving games are great for using up energy, and many dogs will chase anything that is thrown. Throwing a ball or Frisbee allows you to stand relatively still while your dog runs, jumps, stretches and twists. A word of caution: never throw a stick. Many dogs have been injured when they tried to catch a stick as it came down. Swimming games are great fun for dogs that enjoy the water. Retrieving a float toy or just chasing waves is good exercise. You might just enjoy swimming with your dog!
Jogging is an easy and popular way to exercise yourself and your dog, and spend some quality time together. If your dog has never jogged before, begin gradually as sore muscles are no fun. Most of the running should take place on a softer surface than concrete, if possible, as hard surfaces can injure the bones and joints of canine athletes just as quickly as they can those of human athletes. Keep your dog on a leash if you are not exercising in a fenced yard or secure area.
Organized dog sports such as Flyball, Agility and Disc Dog are also great entertainment and exercise for you and your dog, as well as a fun social event. You can learn a few new skills, and meet other dogs and their Guardians while keeping fit by joining a training class or club. Most canine recreational clubs offer group meets year round, and have access to indoor training facilities so that you may continue your exercise program during the winter or periods of inclement weather.
Finally, consider attending an obedience class with your dog. Learning obedience directs your dog’s physical and mental energy into more constructive channels, and can be just the thing for a dog with a lot of energy. A daily training session – giving your dog the opportunity to please you with what they know and their willingness to work for you, and you giving you the opportunity to reward their correct behaviour with praise – can help develop a strong and mutually rewarding bond between dog and Guardian that can heal the rift caused by the dog’s previously destructive behaviour.