Mridul and Rashmi is a working couple. Both are great dog lovers and can not think of spending a day without a dog. It was their love for dogs which brought them close to get married. Since they lived in an apartment in Mumbai, they decided to go for a Spitz. After a considerable debate they agreed to rear a dog.
The six weeks old ball of fur arrived on a Saturday. The weekend passed rather fast with the pup. His antics kept both of them occupied, watching and interacting with the pup. It looked as if the pup was house broken since birth. He went to the designated spot on the balcony-a fibre glass mat. They were experienced with dogs, therefore they had bought all the chew toys etc for the pup.
Fortunately Rashmi’s mother also landed at the same time; therefore initial four months were not much of a problem. The pup was perky and playful. He had already started barking at the visitors at the door. Once they were welcomed inside he did not bother them.
The pup was now six months old and had to be left alone as Rashmi’s mother had to go back. The pup was left alone from 9AM to 3PM each day. Inside the house things appeared in order and normal to the loving owners. At that stage the neighbors started complaining that in their absence the pup barks continuously for some time and then howls. He also scratches the door incessantly. The allegations were found to be correct. Their entrance door had been scratched badly, though the scratches were not easily visible because of a thick coat of paint.
On a Sunday the couple as per the plan left the house as they did every day and waited in the neighborhood. To their shock Bozo began to howl within minutes of their departure. In addition to all the howling and scratching the pup had developed two more bad habits. He would run out of the door, in case it was left open even for a moment and had started to chew the wooden furniture as well in their absence.
What the doting couple did not realise was that a dog is a pack animal and feels out of place without his pack mates. The pack instinct is there since birth, but gets stronger with age. Initially the pup is generally with his littermates and dam (the pack leader). Once separated from the pack, he adjusts with the new ‘pack’ of his human owners. He finds the new members enchanting and loves to interact with them by trying to please them and play (in his own ways) with them. Life goes on smoothly for the pup till the day he is left alone.
Usually we dog lovers take things for granted. We presume that we have to go for work and the children have to go to school and the pup will be happy alone with his toys. I wonder how we equate a pup’s psyche with ours! A growing pup left alone can be a bundle of mischief and even nuisance for himself and everyone. We must know that each dog has his own concept of loneliness.
I had acquired a grown up, (two years old) Lhasa Terrier. She was fully trained, said the previous owner. So I was confidant of her behavior. When she came to my place, she found it rather large compared to the small house she was living with her previous owners. There were children in the house too; as such she had company all the time. At my place she was literally lost in the rooms. Bewildered she continued to sniff the rooms almost for a week. One morning I was expecting a phone call. Mind you those days we had the primitive ‘landline’ phones! I found that the phone was dead. It had to be because Sheeba the Lhasa Terrier had chewed off the cord in the night. Not only that, she had even torn the fat Telephone Directory to shreds.
Each morning some or other item was found chewed off. During day time she was a gem. Gentle, well behaved, obedient and what not! As a trial I shifted her from her room to my bedroom, of course taking precaution that she is not able to access my slippers and costly shoes! In the morning everything was found intact. She slept peacefully all night on her bed, without budging even for once. At once I realised that Sheba was used to sleep with the owner. In fact she was a pampered child and shared the bed with the owner.
However, I am personally against this because of two reasons. Dogs are territorial and his bed is his special territory. Once he begins to share your bed, it becomes his territory and you are (as per his thinking) one of the mates, sharing his bed! Thus you are relegated to a lower position. In dogs packs hierarchies matter a lot. Never think that a dog will become a sober human being because of the company he keeps!
Secondly dogs are hardy, but carry more infections than we imagine. Their hairs are the places where viruses can lurk, without harming them. Thus continuous physical closeness with your dog for six to eight hours may not be good for you in the long run.
Some of you may be thinking ‘after all dogs are such obedient creatures and they are almost ‘humanized’ then why should they howl and create a nuisance when left alone?’ If you see in depth you find that a poor dog has no source of entertainment to keep him occupied during the hours he is not sleeping. In the wilderness they chase the prey, hunt in packs, and enjoy ravishing the dead beast and then play and sleep. There are whole lot of ‘people’ around and a whole lot of entertainment. But what happens in our small cubbyholes we call a home? There is a dog and his doting owners. They have their own appointments, jobs, priorities.
In short in our houses there is no to entertain the dog when we are gone out. We are his ‘entertainers’ and in our absence he is bored as hell. Left to himself he tries to pass time by his favorite sport of chewing things. And you return home to find things in a mess.
Well the problem is that normally a dog can tolerate loneliness for two hours. Beyond that depending upon his nature he will behave. He might become a stressed dog and apart from chewing things may even begin attacking people for nothing. Therefore training a dog right from the day he reaches your place is a must.
Teaching a dog to stay while you are out of sight is quite helpful in this effort. In addition teaching him to retrieve also helps a lot. If a dog retrieves you can exercise him without tiring yourself. Therefore a bout of exercise for him before you leave him alone is useful. A tired dog will sleep comfortably. In addition give him plenty of toys to play with in his Kennel. A football, with a tiny piece of chocolate pressed tight on one of the groves keeps him occupied for long hours.
Now with the easy availability of video cameras you can videograph a day’s activities with your dog and make a DVD. Let it play with the help of timer. Thus, after he has had his session with his toys, he will be engrossed watching the DVD and more busy trying to catch the sounds.
However, the fact remains that a dog left alone can not remain happy. Poor chap is borne with genes to live in pack in company of many others. He finds it very difficult to adjust when left alone. Hiring a help, if feasible is not a bad idea to keep your house in order and also reduce the stress for your dog.
Image (c) Gettyimages.com