Monday, 23 February 2015

When dogs go bad - who's driving who mad?

As a dog trainer, professional pet minder and sitter, I meet every size and type of dog. What is fascinating is not only how different dogs can be physically, but how their personalities and traits can be poles apart. When a Perfect Pet Sitter comes to stay 'your dog is our job' and we are with them round the clock. With our unique guarantee no dog is left alone all day when we stay. But lots of dogs are not so fortunate to have exercise AND company in their daily lives - and I wanted to focus on this today.

Imagine if you were locked in your home. But with no, visitors, no one to talk to, no exercise, no tv, no computer or phone, no books or magazines, no shopping, no driving the car -NOTHING - just four walls. But of course that never happens because we are blessed with the ability to choose what we do.

Yet think about dogs left home alone. The description above is exactly what it is like for them -  the equivalent of being trapped in solitary confinement.



No opportunities to stretch their legs and read the doggie newspapers – sniffing to you and me – is torture for pack animals such as dogs. They can (and in extreme cases some do) go mad. That’s rare, but lack of outside stimulation and too little exercise are the biggest reasons dogs develop OCD.

Frustrated dogs will often destroy the home if left inside. But if left outside, they can continually bark and upset neighbours, making the owners problem a problem for everyone else.

Kelpies Jack & Maggie, heeling
perfectly. My hands not on leads
(dogs were attached to me for safety)
Even a dog fortunate enough to get a full hours exercise a day is often still locked in for the remaining 23 hours. Put that way you start to realise just how vital that one hour a day is to a dog and why they are so happy when they hear ‘walkies!’

But the question is, why do people who actively want to have a dog in their family neglect their dog’s exercise needs? A common reason is a dog that is difficult on the lead. Owners dreamt of a well behaved dog trotting nicely at their side or sitting quietly whilst they have a coffee. Instead they can end up with any/or a combination of:
The Puller, The Sniffer, The Lunger/Attacker and the that old favourite – The Criss Crosser, a dog whizzing one side to the next being a serious trip hazard.

‘Walkies’ which was supposed to be enjoyable – over time becomes a chore. It eventually just seems easier to leave the dog behind rather than face the dramas.

Elly & Zara half way through a 1 hour
20 min walk, watching Amber swim

Zara & Elly thinking about 
joining Amber ....

The irony is that the less often a dog goes out, the more frantic, excitable and unmanageable they become when they do.

My Blog next week is going to follow on this theme and I’ll be giving three examples of pets I have been involved with and how the different approaches of their owners have resulted in vastly different behaviour in their dogs.

Until then, here are three actions to help correct a ‘bad’ dog:

1) Understand how the situation came about
Dogs get into bad habits usually because they have not had consistent training.
When an improvement to a dog’s behaviour is needed, a trainer will be able to point the way ahead. However, trainers do not possess magic wands and cannot, for example, turn a pulling dog to a perfect heeler in one session.

2) Have realistic expectations 
People don’t get overweight overnight and going to the gym once will not get them slim overnight either. It can take many months to lose weight with a regime of exercise plus eating the right foods. In the same way, being prepared to put time in to get a dog to understand what is expected of him/her is crucial.

3) Get the dog you always dreamed of
To love a dog is to meet its prime needs – exercise and socialisation - which means more than 10 minute amble around the block.
A frustrated dog is not a happy dog, and without daily exercise – enough to tire them out – a pent up dog is the outcome.  Treats and cuddles, no matter how well meaning, are not the answer. Just once a day giving a dog the exercise they crave = a happy, relaxed and contented canine. The rewards that come with having a well behaved pooch that can be taken anywhere are immeasurable and a key part of the joy of dog ownership.

Elly & Zara relaxed &
happy after their long run

What are your experiences of this topic? Love to hear from you with your stories. Email:

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