The Working Man’s (or Woman’s) Conundrum in Today’s Dog Ownership
I recently worked with a client at my house. She had a lovely Pit Bull mix who was full of energy and excitement! He was 10 months old and she and her boyfriend were at their wits end trying to deal with him and his excessive energy. As I watch dogs bounce and fly around during training, I often wish I had just a fraction of their vigor and zest for life!
This couple’s problem is probably one of the most common problems I encounter in dog training.
They work 10 hours a day. Now I realize that most of you are probably hackling in anger at the thought of a dog being left alone for 10 hours a day, but the truth of the matter is that this is a very common scenario.
I wish that you had to get a license, pass an ethical, knowledge and skills test, and promise to be able to spend a certain amount of time with your dog in order to own a dog; but the truth is that there are too many dogs and not enough good homes to involve such sanctions. If requirements to own animals were stricter there would be an even higher and more astronomical rate of euthanasia.
Not all people who work are unfit owners; even those that have to work crazy long hours can make sure their dogs live fulfilling lives if they are willing to make some sacrifices!
I have had jobs where I had to work long hours in order to pay the bills and with the economy plummeting most dog owners are faced with long work hours and lots of commitments on their days off!
So What Can You Do If You Find Yourself Facing the Same Problems?
Acknowledge that you have a problem and you need to make a change! As difficult as it sounds if you want to keep your dog, not be abusive and ensure you are both happy you need to make some significant changes in you and your dog’s life.
Get up earlier! I empathize with those of you who want or think you NEED to get as much sleep as possible, but your dog needs exercise and positive interaction with you as much or, dare I say it, MORE than you need your sleep!
In order to make sure your dog is ready for his day of solitary, you MUST wear him out and spend time bonding with him! So, start running or biking or playing ball in the mornings until he is sincerely tired out. That means that 5 minutes of ball playing probably isn’t going to cut it; you need to leave him exhausted!
The good news is this is just as good for you as it is for him and after about a week your body won’t feel as groggy anymore!
Make some efforts to make your dog’s day alone as happy and exciting as possible!
- Hide and leave treats for him to discover throughout the day.
- Make sure he has things to chew on and play with while you are gone.
- Stuff bones with peanut butter and give him novel things to chew on occasionally.
- Leave the radio or TV on to keep him from being overwhelmed by outside noises.
If you are gone 8 hours or more get someone to come over and let your dog out to walk or even to play with him.
Neighborhood kids often love making a little extra cash and you can pay them to come and play with your dog afterschool.
If those are not options take your dog to a doggy day care! Doggy day care, especially those that will walk your dog or let him play in play groups, are wonderful because when you pick your dog up he is already tired and ready for a nap when you get home!
If you can’t do doggy day care and return home with an exhausted dog; it is your responsibility to exercise again him when you get home!
Remember your dog has been alone for the last 8 hours and he has probably spent most of his time sleeping, so when you get home he is filled with enthusiasm and full of energy! In order to insure his life is fulfilling, you must spend time with and exercise him when you get home from work, too!
If you exercise him and wear him out immediately when you get home, then #1: you won’t procrastinate taking him out and #2: you can then cook dinner or spend time doing whatever you need to do to unwind after your hard day at work.
Not only does your dog need exercise, he also needs mental stimulation and training! You must spend time teaching him and working with him and the good news is that mental stimulation and training can be tiring to your dog so you “hit two birds with one stone” analogy!
You don’t have to spend an hour training, just spend a few minutes during commercials from your favorite show to get your clicker out and teach your dog a trick, or work on his down stay, or his attention and focus. Any time you spend training will help solidify your relationship and will help him to listen to you throughout the day.
On Your Day Off:
Spend time together. Go hiking or biking and include your dog in your plans if possible! There is no sense in having a dog if you don’t spend time enjoying one another and spending time together!
The reason my clients were having problems was because they were spending all of their time working but no one was really devoting time to Duke, neither before nor after work. When they did spend time with him, they were yelling at him for jumping up on them and because he was not listening to their commands; but in truth they had never taught him obedience or even manners.
If they got up early and exercised him, left him with games to play during the day, had someone let him out then came home and took him for a walk or a run and then taught him a trick after dinner, I guarantee they would all be happier together!
I realize it is difficult to get up early and spend time working with your dog but if you want a dog and the companionship, love and devotion that goes with dog ownership you must make it a priority in your life! You can have a demanding job and still be a kind and successful dog owner!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.