From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
We all know a happy pet makes for a happy home, so for dog owners, it is our job to make sure the home is a safe and comfortable living space. From big ranches to one-bedroom flats, our dogs are forced to adapt to the homes we have chosen. The best thing you can do for a dog is to keep their needs in mind the same way you keep your own every day.
“Dogs need food, water and shelter; however, most dogs need more than that,” explains Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Dogs have emotional needs as well as physical requirements. They are social animals and need to be a part of the family or be included in your daily routine.
“Some dogs acquire bad habits due to neglect or boredom. They begin to bark or express numerous emotions such as anxiety, aggression, boredom, playfulness, hunger and can sometimes even become destructive,” Crist continues. “Enrichment toys are recommended to help with this. These usually have foods placed in them and then the dog has to work on getting the food out over a period of time.”
For potential dog owners who live in smaller environments such as an apartment, condo or duplex-type of space, it would be best to purchase a small breed dog with an expected mild-mannered behavior.
“A crate can help limit access to areas that are off limits until all household rules are learned, such as what not to chew on and areas the pet is not to eliminate in. It should be just large enough for the pet to stand and turn around in, and strong enough to securely contain the pet,” Crist continues. “It might be wise to place the crate in your bedroom or a nearby place—especially if the pet is a puppy. Then, one can hear the puppy whine if it needs to get outside to eliminate.”
According to Crist, older pets should be kept nearby so crating is not associated with social isolation. Once the pet is comfortable in the crate near you, one can gradually move it to the location you prefer. Crating a pet for separation anxiety will not solve the issue. A crate can prevent the pet from being destructive; however, the pet can be injured if trying to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety should be handled with desensitization training and counter-conditioning. An owner may need to consult with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist for further treatment.
“We do have to be mindful if this pet is a puppy or an older dog because each requires different needs,” suggests Crist. “Puppies less than 6 months old should not be left alone or neglected for more than three to four hours at a time because they cannot control their bladders for long periods of time. Another consideration is, if the apartment has a balcony, then one has to always be mindful that the pet does not fall from the balcony. Stairs could also present a problem to some dogs if they are a senior pet or if they have arthritis.”
Some people with yards or larger properties often have dog houses for dogs that sleep outside or are outside for extended periods of time. The idea that a dog is an “outside” dog does not mean the owner cares any less for it. But if your dog is going to be outside for the majority of the day, there are some things to keep in mind.
“Some believe that outdoor dogs can have a higher risk for being abandoned,” said Crist. “When a dog lives as part of the family inside the house, a tight and caring household bond can be formed. Occasionally, some puppies that grow up outside receive no socialization or behavior training. Some dogs may become bored or lonely and can develop bad habits such as digging in the yard, barking, chewing on outdoor equipment, sprinklers or housing.”
Crist added that some county laws do not allow the pet to be chained up outside and require the pet to have food, water and shelter. Some dogs that are unsupervised in the yard or outside can be physically injured from hazards that might be present in the back yard. They might want to chase other creatures, such as a skunk, raccoon, possum or other animals that might visit at night.
For outside dogs, toxic plants and meter readers who may spray the pet with a deterrent for their own protection are also things to be mindful of.
So, whether you carry your canine in your purse with you everywhere or give him the ranch to roam, as long as you keep your tail-wagger’s best interest in mind along the way, it will keep your home a happy one.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 23-29, 2010 issue