More Exercise, especially Herding, would be Perfect

Question:
I’ve a blue heeler/Lab mix, altered. He tries to herd people and drives me nuts barking when I’ve got to go out. I’ve considered finding someone more active than me because my health prevents me from activity I used to do with him but would miss him so much I’m torn. Heard of Zylkene but unsure of using it.

Dr. Nichol:
You describe a big active herding dog who came hard-wired, right out of the box, to engage in behavior that is innate to his genetic code. He is a heeler, so he must herd by nipping the heels of anything that moves. I get it. The Nichol family dog, Miss America, is a Border collie. She looks like a beauty queen but treats us like sheep. We have accepted our fate.

Research into the canine genome has adjusted our thinking about behaviors, both natural and pathological. There are life events that influence brain function but a dog who is programmed to herd must follow his dharma. Consider that terriers must chase, that retrievers must retrieve, and that hounds must hound. Some things cannot be changed.

Your dog loves you intensely. He would suffer serious anxiety if he lost you-his best friend. Animal shelters are overwhelmed with pets who missed living full lives because their owners didn’t understand their needs. You can help your dog find his bliss.

Rather than going stir crazy this heeler needs sustained, daily, vigorous exercise, ideally with other dogs. Doggy daycare and trips to a dog park can make a big difference. Even better, consider herding work for your incessant herder with the New Mexico Herding Dog Association. The dogs work, their owners don’t.

Everybody wants simple solutions; a happy pill sounds easy. Zylkene is a supplement that can reduce mild to moderate anxiety in dogs and cats but that isn’t your boy’s issue. He craves gainful employment that fits who he is. He doesn’t speak a human language so he’s communicating behaviorally. The message is clear. Please don’t even consider rehoming him.
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I extend Christmas and all manner of other holiday greetings to pet lovers everywhere, whether they read my weekly rants or not. Life is good or, darn it, it should be.