Living Gracefully                           

Last week I introduced a handicapped Chihuahua mix named Grace and her canine compadres of the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary. The healthy interactions of this free-ranging group are a great example of how well dogs can get along when they are unencumbered by contrivances like houses and fences.

Pet dogs, with limited indoor and outdoor space, can feel crowded by their canine housemates. Their inability to create distance from each other can intensify competition for food, human attention, and other perceived “scarce” resources. Set your dogs up for success by feeding them in separate rooms. And be sure that everybody has a way to escape or avoid conflict.

Our dogs need a haven where nobody will approach or hassle them. A snug den-like enclosure is their essential hide-out but dogs must always have a choice. Dens in the wild don’t have doors; their canine lodgers are always free to come and go. A dog crate can work well if it’s covered and never closed.

While there can be too much togetherness dogs need to be socially engaged with others of their ilk. They have a strong requirement for daily raucous play, rear end sniffing, and competitive urinating on neutral turf off-territory. A not-too-busy dog park can provide essential support for canine wellbeing.

An excellent ritual at Heart and Soul is the afternoon group hike. If Gracie with her funky rear legs falls behind, the younger more able-bodied dogs just stop and wait for her to catch up. And why wouldn’t they? They lose nothing by their kindness. Maybe there is something to this business of having choices and enjoying the freedom to stop and smell the roses. The dogs of Heart and Soul are the best versions of themselves.

The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary does wonderful work with dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, doves, horses, and llamas. They welcome and deeply appreciate your support. Visit their website www.animal-sanctuary.org to learn more.

On Sunday, June3 the Heart and Soul Spring Benefit Garden Party will be held in Santa Fe.  I’ll be speaking and taking questions on canine behavior. Call 505-757-6817 if you would like to attend. Donations are tax deductible.

 

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.