“I usually would never board my dog, but…”
“Most of the time I take my dog with me, but…”
“We’ve never boarded our dog before, but…”
“Usually we leave her with family, but…”
In the past two weeks I have heard some version of this phrase no less than five times. I understand you love your dog and hate to be apart. I know you are doing your best to provide a positive, supportive environment for your pooch and part of that is attending to his needs. However, here’s the problem.
There will come a day when your brother/mother/long-lost uncle is in the hospital, your child just miraculously made it to the Middle School Spelling Bee Championships and you need to escort her to Boise, or you just won an all-expenses paid trip to Maui and no one is available to pet sit.
That is where I come in. You will need me and I promise to be there for you. In return I want to elicit a promise from you. Please, for my sanity’s sake, teach your dog to be independent. This is different from not teaching him anything and calling him stubborn. It is teaching him that he can survive, maybe even thrive without you.
Every year, thousands of dogs are dropped off at shelters because of behavior problems, and one of the most common noted is separation anxiety. This is when your dog gets so wound up when left alone that it becomes destructive or barks/howls to the point that your neighbors complain. It is bad for your dog to behave this way; bad for your peace in the neighborhood and bad for his mental well-being.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Get your dog used to your favorite local kennel. Visit before you need them and make sure it is a place you like and trust. Give yourself a little weekend stay-cation and leave your dog for a couple days while you’re home and can be easily reached if your dog has problems.
Teach your dog to be okay with being alone. This may mean crate training, this may mean learning to stay home unattended for the day, it may mean learning to occupy himself with a KONG™ or suitable chew toy.
Teach your dog to be good with other people or dogs. Many people have a misconception about dogs as social animals. They(the people) think all dogs should want to go hang out with other dogs. That is not always the case. In fact, seldom do dogs really relish being thrust into a group of unknowns in a strange place and left on their own. You need to help your dog realize that other dogs and people are safe and trustworthy much like you would teach a three-year-old human that there are certain people and places that are safe. Take the time to do this right and you will have a wonderfully well-adjusted dog. Do it wrong and you may gain the coffee klatch infamy of being the one with the dog that got kicked out of daycare. At the very least, your dog needs to be able to interact well with a kennel’s staff. That means not spending all day and night barking or howling, allowing people to take them on walks or into play areas and then coming back when called, not growling at them when they walk by, and most certainly never biting.
Yes, this is a plea to make my life a little easier, but it is also going to make your dog’s life a little better. Isn’t that what you really want?