Sherry Davis

Friday, Jan 24 2014 04:00 PM

SHERRY DAVIS: It's time to address root of this dog's problem

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Columnist Sherry Davis.

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By Sherry Davis

Think you have dog problems?

Two months ago Vickey took in a border collie that didn't work out in its previous home. Her intentions were twofold: to save the dog from going to the shelter and provide the younger of her two dachshunds (11 and 7 years) with companionship.

In that short period Vickey says the 10-month-old dog has ruined rugs, shoes, bras, tubes of hand cream, countless books, her Kindle, baskets, pine cones, pillows, magazines, dog dishes and pee pads. The doggie door, which is necessary for the older dogs, has become a portal for the border collie to bring in sticks, dirt clods and rocks from outside. She has torn up all the patio plants and even chews up the limbs of rose bushes complete with thorns.

Vickey says, "Every day I come home from work and get angry, cry and spend hours cleaning up." She goes on to say, "The dog knows that when she has made a mess I will be upset and she stays outside. I've tried doing what I have done with many of my dogs in the past. I bought Kong toys and filled them with treats and tried to show her she can't chew on anything but her rawhide chews, but that didn't work."

Vickey says she plays with the dog and walks her when she comes home and that she is very smart but very, very needy. Vickey says her morning routine every day before leaving for work is to put up all the trash cans, cover all furniture with plastic and cover the bottom two rows of her bookcases with plastic, but the dog still finds things to destroy.

"I can't leave firewood in the house or the lighters or lighter logs," Vickey says. "I collect figurines and can't leave those down because she chews them up, and she chewed the corner of my hope chest my parents got me when I was 12."

Vickey says the dog would not sleep in the large kennel she purchased to stop it from defecating in the dining room during the night, so she now sleeps in the bedroom or bathroom. She regrets taking the dog and knows her breed is more suited for ranch or farm life, but she can't find anyone to take her. She also worries that re-homing the dog a third time might be bad for her. She doesn't want to continue to drug her (two melatonin in the morning) or be upset at her, but the dog controls her home and her life.

While I sympathize with Vickey's frustration and am horrified at what she puts herself through each day, this is a problem that happens when someone buys or adopts a dog for the wrong reason and/or without considering if the dog will be a match for their lifestyle and schedule.

Taking in an adolescent border collie, considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds and known primarily for its ability to work non-stop eight to 10 hours a day and giving it unlimited access to your home is like handing off your house keys to a repeat offender burglar. A nightly walk and a game of fetch cannot satisfy this youngster's enormous physical and psychological needs, which may be further enhanced by separation anxiety. The dog is expressing this anxiety and frustration through her destruction, which is further compounded by Vickey's emotional response to her behavior.

There are several steps Vickey can take to turn this puppy's behavior around, but foremost is to create an environment that prohibits her destructive behavior. This can be done by confining her to a shaded dog run (close to the house) while she is at work or alternatively placing a dog run in front of the dog door, which will allow the little dogs out to eliminate while preventing the border collie access to the house.

But it should be noted that to avoid creating a barking problem, it is vital to first teach the dog to stay there quietly at times when the owner is home to prevent it from associating confinement with a pattern of behavior that ends with the owner leaving. Calm behavior in the confined area can be paired with high-value rewards reserved strictly for appropriate behavior.

Once that is accomplished, it is time to address the root of this dog's problem, which is fulfilling her genetically hard-wired need to work and get her energy focused in a positive direction.

And with so many fun and energy-draining activities that owners can chose to participate in with their dogs such as fly-ball, obedience or agility, there must surely be one that Vickey would enjoy doing with her dog, as opposed to spending hours cleaning up after her at night.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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