According to our dogs, the great famine could strike anytime. They’re natural predators but, gee, how often can they snag a slow rat in time for dinner? Their fallback is to sniff out delicacies like moldering carrion. But don’t they trust us to deliver the groceries? They’re dogs first and pets second. They assume nothing.
You would think that moving in with Diane and Richard would feel like dying and going to heaven for a street dog like Jasper but their human domicile stymied his attempts to self-actualize. This dog, in serious need of honest, canine-specific labor, was an anxious mess when left alone. Maybe if he worked to survive, much as he would in the wild, he could adapt.
On most days Jasper’s folks could drop him off for play at doggy daycare. Party animal that he was, he had no problem fitting in with a bunch of other rear end sniffing hooligans. The challenge came when he existed without purpose. Attempts to crate wigged-out dogs almost always fail.
Those who toss the house aren’t bored; they lack opportunities to do what dogs do. They aren’t wired to eat from bowls but from carcasses. Diane and Richard could have heaved road kill into their living room as they left home but I recommended food-dispensing toys and puzzles like a Twist ‘n Treat, a Kibble Nibble, or a Food Cube. Their beagle would be challenged to scavenge for a living, just like a real dog.
To custom fit Jasper’s separation anxiety treatment we needed the intimate details. Oh, sure , he had his privacy rights but we had a job to do and puppy cams are cheap. Jasper picked at his food toys but he still paced and occasionally cried. The little guy’s wellbeing was still suffering. His angst improved significantly with a gentle antianxiety medication and soothing music called Through a Dog’s Ear.
Empathy for the struggles of others, including dogs, cats, and other people whose behavior may be frustrating, annoying, or just sets our teeth on edge, is the essence of bringing out their best. With apologies to Luther Burbank, the famed horticulturist, the secret to improved behavior, apart from scientific research, is love. Jasper turned into a great dog because his people cared about how he felt.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.