As a kid one of my favorite stories was about the devil, which my grand-aunt had over-powered and to keep him busy she had given him a tall bamboo ‘lathi’ and made him count the nodes from one end to the other and continue till he could count no further. The story, later I realized, used to be directed at me to teach me a lesson that an idle man’s brain is devil’s workshop.
Likewise, an idle dog’s brain is no less than a devil’s laboratory!
Imagine a two year old infant. Leave him alone on his own and in all probability either he would injure himself or ruin your TV or the costly Swarovski cut glass decorative piece beyond repair. Likewise a puppy left alone can cause enormous damage-but still worst is the damage done by an adult dog. Yes even an untrained adult, if left alone for a considerably long period can devastate the room in which he was left. If it happened to be your living room then you should be prepared to see the room littered with the foam from the sofa and patches of urine all over your carpet.
Why do they behave like that? Isn’t there a way out are some of the questions which loving and doting dog owners often ask me.
Yes loving and doting dog lovers they are, but alas they have not understood the basics of dog’s psychology. I have often said ‘dog is a pack animal’. Now imagine a litter of pups with their dam. As soon as they are about 30 days old, she leaves them alone and goes hunting for food. In urban areas you can see such litters on the waste dumps. They sit quietly up to 30 minutes while their dam goes to quench her hunger. But if she is delayed they start whimpering. Hearing their sounds, often the dam rushes back to them, licks them and sits with them for a while to comfort and reassure them and rushes out again. During this phase, while she is nursing puppies her hunger is insatiable. She consumes up to two and half times her normal appetite - yet another fact which many bitch owners do not know.
As the litter grows in age, dam’s duration of search for food goes on increasing as she needs more food. The puppies also learn that it is better to remain quiet and await her return patiently - as she comes and feed them better thereafter. By now their faculty to associate ideas and link them with incidents and follow a established routine develops and improves further.
After the pups are 60 days old, the relationship of mother and son gradually becomes weaker. For her they are just puppies, who can now search for food themselves and she lets them do so. Often such litters can be seen on the road, trailing their mom. They play and mock hunt in a pack. This pack has the dam as the leader.
The puppy you bought home is usually of this age. He looks forward to a leader who will care for him, feed him, nurse him, caress him, play with him and comfort him with his/her touch. Sad part is that in the new pack all the members are busy till the weekend and for all those five or six days the poor pup has to await the return of the pack. He grows impatient. He needs to hone his skills of mock hunting-but how? He needs to go out of the lair (home) to relieve him, but he finds the door shut.
Thus, out of sheer frustration and fear he first engages in a mock hunt, that may include digging your sofa and then make puddles all over the room. In return he gets a good thrashing when the first pack member comes back. The story continues, the pup becomes an adult-his power to damage increases and the punishment now he gets is of a wilder type.
Now think it coolly my dear readers, was their earlier leader, the dam was better or you, the suave and literate owner and a doting dog lover? I don’t know what your answer is, but I feel that their dam knew their needs better than any other person.
A dog, whether, left alone or in company needs to be continuously engaged. If you have an illiterate child of eight years and you leave him alone with a book-how do you expect him to read it till you returned! Same way if you have a dog, you have to teach him the games he can play and also the games he should not play in the living room. You have to teach him difference between good and bad-that is digging the sofa is bad, but chewing his chew toy is good. You have to devise games for him. Like our kids they love a variety of toys. Don’t expect a dog to play with same old toy day in and day out. Have as many toys as you can and keep changing.
I agree it is costly to buy toys. But you can always devise toys for him, for example, plastic bottles minus caps are bot bad toys. They like the crunchy sounds made by the bottles, while they try to tear them apart. Like there could be many other toys. For puppies nothing to beat a football with a tiny piece of chocolate pressed in to one of the grooves. Let him sniff and hunt…
Image (c) Gettyimages.com