Know Your Pooch
I am bored as hell!
Had this article about getting bored been written by my favourite doggy character ‘Bozo’, he would have certainly given the above caption! However, I just want to find out if your Bozo is getting bored, then how do you know about that and what do you do about it!
Yes, many unwanted things your Bozo does are because he is not getting enough attention/exercise and getting bored. He runs away from you after you have completed his walk in the park, he barks incessantly at the shadows, he goes garbage hunting in the night and steals things from the table or surfs the counter leaving his pug marks often on the granite top, he chews things in frustration, or eats his own stool (coprophagia)… the list is pretty long.
These days everyone is forced to stay at home; socialisation has come to a naught and normal outings are a thing of the past. Consequently, it is common to hear, ‘we are getting bored as hell!’ Yes, there are no two opinions about that. But imagine the condition of your Bozo, who has to stay at home, COVID or no COVID. Everyone goes out for work; poor guy is locked in the house. In the evenings when everyone is back home, he is as happy as he can ever be and wants to go out. You take him out for a per-functionary stroll and come back the moment he completes his ‘jobs.’ Mind you unlike you, he is packed with energy that needs to be dissipated and feels miserable when you drag him back home. In that situation if you take off his leash in the park, he will try his best to run away from you. Because he knows well that you will lock him in the house and bring him out next morning only.
But here the problem that arises is that what to do if you’re Bozo runs away. One way is that you run in the opposite direction, calling his name. But you are too tired for that, isn’t it? The best way in such a situation is to sit down on the ground and act as if looking for something. Don’t look at Bozo, but of course discreetly keep an eye on him. He will come to inspect what is going on. But he will remain some distance away and may encircle you to see what is happening. Just ignore him and act as if you are concentrating on something on the ground. Suddenly you will feel his wet nose on your cheek or maybe he too starts to sniff the ground! At that moment, gently catch hold of him. Mind you no scolding or abusing or looking at him menacingly. Just be normal self, gently pat him and praise him. Put the leash on and sit with him on the nearest bench. After a while start walking back home. Once you are inside the home, praise him lavishly and give him a treat. The more you fuss around him, the better he will feel.
All of a sudden you find that Bozo keeps barking incessantly. And apparently he barks at perceptibly nothing. This is in all probability an attention seeking syndrome. You are responsible for such condition, because you have not been giving him enough attention. The best way is to take him out on walks, as many times a day as possible. Train him to retrieve a ball. Make him do it a number of times both in the morning and evening. This will keep him exercised well and he will stop that obnoxious behaviour. The garbage bin in the balcony or courtyard is one of the favourite haunts of dogs which are left alone or given less exercise. Apart from that these days we have open kitchens I our homes. Dogs know it jolly well that food is cooked there and if possible they don’t hesitate to climb up and surf the counter for any leftovers or something kept there, covered with a lid. You are awakened by the din of the falling lid in the dead of the night. You rush to the kitchen and see the shadow of Bozo jumping down from the counter. Such a situation arises due to two mistakes. One is offering him tidbits while you are having your food or not paying him enough attention. A bored dog searches for some entertainment. Food hunting can be a rewarding past time. Plus the aroma of the garbage bin which has chicken bones from the Biryani you savoured at the dinner makes him empty the bin in the manner he can.
The remedies are, never offer anything to him while you are having food. He should be away from your dining area at that time. Use some pungent smelling material like tabasco sauce or vinegar and spray/rub it on the garbage bin. In the night, keep an eye on the dog. Generally they go foraging just after the lights are switched off. The moment dog tries to push his nose towards the bin, give a sharp NO from the shadows. Your command plus the pungent smell will put him off. You may have to repeat it two-three times and he will be cured. But a permanent cure will depend upon the amount of exercise you are able to give to your dog. Dogs shed milk teeth and begin to cut permanent teeth around four month’s age. It is generally over by the tie they are six months old. In a few case it may last up to eight months age. A dog chewing off things beyond that age certainly means that your dog is getting much less attention. His action is like you doodling while sitting in a meeting or your child drawing cartoons in his note book during a boring lecture in the class. Teaching the commands ‘No’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Sit’ from the puppyhood and more exercise help to tackle this problem. Plus give him the proper chew toys to vent his frustration on during the night.
Eating his own stool is a nuisance. But it is not due to one single reason-boredom. This habit is due to lack of certain minerals in food. Hence ensure that he is getting a complete meal. Secondly it is an animal trait to hide his stool by covering it with mud thrown over it from his hind legs, to ward off the predators if any. In a domestic dog the fear of an unknown predator sometimes is so much that dog just gulps down his own stool to hide it permanently. It is best to teach him to do his job while of leash only and the moment he finishes, you walk off, praising him all the while. I have experienced that a well exercised dog never does it. One of my Labradors had developed the habit. I made him retrieve a ball endlessly during our play times. He gave up is obnoxious habit without much effort on my part. There are many more issues cropping out of boredom among dogs. I will discuss them in the forthcoming issues.