Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "There Goes the Sofa" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

There Goes the Sofa

By Charlotte Peltz

While most people are aware of the chewing that puppies are bound to do, there is another form of chewing that often causes a big surprise. That is the chewing often associated with rescue dogs. It matters not whether the rescue dog is hot off the streets, (or the Humane Society) or came from someone's home. This is often referred to as "separation anxiety."

In the case of the dog taken from the streets it may not strictly meet that definition, but the results can be the same. The dog is not accustomed to confinement, gets frustrated, frantic, and anxious and destroys anything it can manage to tackle. With the re-homed dog there are other things at work. Loss of the known "pack" is the first blow. Then there are all the new surroundings, strange "customs" of the new place, and strangers all around to boot.

From the new owner's viewpoint this dog has been liberated from some worse-than-death situation, and is expected to show eternal gratitude. Ha! Dogs don't think that way, folks. They really don't. Meanwhile, this all-loving and all-caring new owner doles out the goodies, pets and strokes just for the heck of it (comforting the dog, he says) spends lots of time with the dog, and often allows the dog free run of the house. After all -- he is now a member of the family, right? Well, maybe.

Now comes the day that the Loving Owner has to be gone for four or five hours, pays a fond farewell to the dog and spends a lovely day doing whatever loving owners do. Ah, but what a welcome L.O. receives upon return to the house! The sofa? Forget it. There isn't even anything worth recovering! Add to that his $500 eyeglasses, the remote control, the chewed on wires -- which just incidentally brought the computer and printer down to their deaths as this unbelievably ungrateful critter dragged the wires off for more comfortable chewing on the rug -- or rather what was left of the rug.

How could he! How dare he?

Well, actually, it was all quite easy as far as the achievement level of his performance was concerned -- he did what dogs do when they are confined and stressed out of their heads -- they destroy things with their teeth and claws.

So -- who is wrong here? Let's get rid of the word wrong associated with who and deal just with what is wrong. This poor creature felt that everything it had come to count on was again taken from him. The comfort the dog understood was/is the person. The person disappeared and as far as the dog is concerned -- disappeared forever! Without training and preventative action this picture will be repeated again and again.

The dog requires confidence building training. Lessons that will allow the dog to learn that people go away and they return -- the latter being the big thing here! Safe and really dog-proof space must be created to prevent the destruction during the training period, and quite possibly forever if the dog's level of insecurity is too low or too fragile for complete rehabilitation. Daily routines of obedience exercises that zero in on "Stay" with increasing time in that position, with the owner just out of sight, are very important. That is followed by going through the rituals of leaving and not doing so, mixed with leaving rituals that do result in walking out the door, returning immediately and gradually increasing the time before re-entering. Toys that amuse for more than the few minutes associated with playing ball, for example, are very helpful. Lots and lots of exercise that tire a dog is another major part of the program, as well as a high quality diet. That old saying about a horse feeling his oats also applies to dogs that are fed excessive protein* for their lifestyle or those cheap dog foods I am always talking against. The latter often have some form of sugar (to increase palatability and because it is cheap) which contributes to behavioral problems. Of course, those foods also do not meet nutritional needs, which can contribute to behavioral problems.

So, if you rescue a dog, no matter what the source, do your homework. Prevent problems rather have to redecorate your house. Rescue dogs are often well worth your efforts and make wonderful companions. They deserve a second chance. Don't take one on, be unprepared and then shuffle the dog along to yet another home and stressful situation that may well spell out - death sentence.

* The origin of the protein, rather than the percent, may be a factor. Animal-based protein, most especially fresh, raw animal protein combined with bones, is very different from grain-based protein. [Please see Charlotte's Recommended Reading.]

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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