Is he chewing up the house, sleeping all day or turning into a recluse? Here’s what to do.
Your dog has turned into a slob
I see many owners who are perplexed by what they often assume to be laziness in their dogs. But a normally energetic dog who sleeps all day, or doesn’t seem to take the same pleasure she used to in greeting her owner, could be suffering from a lack of emotional connection with that person. As dog people, we have to be very honest with ourselves. If you contract out all the dog-training and walks to other people, it is unlikely the two of you will bond. A dog wants to be the apple of her human’s eye more than anything. Feeling disconnected, she might begin to behave lethargically or indifferently to the things she used to love.
Don’t forget A dog is not an ornament, she should be an integral part of your life and the household.
Your dog is destroying your home
I’m often called in to help owners who tell me their dog is being “annoying” on purpose. Maybe the dog is chewing up the furniture, or barking all day, or peeing on the carpet every time they’re left alone, despite thorough house training.
Although there are dogs, such as dachshunds, that are predisposed to being barky, they don’t set out to irritate their owners. In most cases, a destructive dog is simply not having her needs met. One of the most important ways to understand or help your pet is to make sure you read up on her breed. Different dogs have been bred for different purposes and if a dog can’t fulfil her instinctive drive to work, she is often left frustrated or under-exercised. A newfoundland who has no outlet for her swimming talents, a labrador retriever who never gets to play fetch, or a dachshund who never gets the chance to dig up the garden in search of rodents (as its breeders intended) is going to be a frustrated dog. A bit of research, small changes to your dog’s routine and a little imagination is likely to be all that she needs. Build a makeshift burrow behind your sofa for your tunnelling dachshund; find a lake or river — even a paddling pool — for your furry waterbaby.
Don’t forget If you know nothing about her breed, you will never understand her.
Your dog has always got something wrong with her
Stress, fear and unhappiness affects dogs in physical ways. It’s common for a dog stressed in kennels, for example, to develop dandruff or another skin condition. And just like humans, prolonged stress can affect her immune system. If your dog is inexplicably lurching from one physical ailment to the next, unhappiness could be the root cause. With a little TLC her physical symptoms will often clear up.
Don’t forget Fear and anxiety can be central components of unhappiness. Dogs who have been in stressful environments will need time to feel safe again.
Your dog has turned into a recluse
I have a british bulldog and when she started turning deaf, she became very withdrawn. She was reluctant to go out and hid behind furniture. I wouldn’t have made the connection between her change in behaviour and her deafness had I not done a lot of reading on how deafness affects humans and how people can feel isolated and unsafe when they lose their hearing. I began to understand that I needed to adapt her lifestyle to her disability. I began taking her for walks in quiet places where she didn’t have to worry about buggies or other dogs or bicycles coming up behind her. I put extra attention into playing with her at home until she adjusted to her new circumstances.
Don’t forget Build up her confidence and take things step by step. Don’t expect miracles overnight.
The canine happiness checklist
Is there an underlying medical condition?
Ruling out illness is an important first step.
Is she eating junk?
Kibble is one of the least nutritious foods you can give your dog. A dog is best off on as natural a diet as you can give her. Meat, oily fish and vegetables needn’t be expensive and I’ve seen dogs transformed by changes in their eating habits.
Has something changed in her life?
Dogs are adaptable but they can find change as challenging as humans do. Perhaps they’ve experienced a big change in their life. Moving house, tension between the humans in her home, the death or absence of an owner or a doggy friend . . . a dog may feel these things very keenly.
Are you treating her like an accessory?
You might have dreamt of a dog that would lie quietly for hours by your feet at the pub, or sit tucked into your handbag, but it’s unlikely to be a dream shared by your dog. Agility, games, long walks . . . this is the stuff doggy dreams are made of. Again, research the breed. A husky is going to need hours of exercise. A staffy will want nonstop cuddles. A collie is going to become demented under a table all day at the pub.
Does she know who you are?
If you’re never home, why have you got a dog?
Are you worrying too much?
It is easy to worry about the slightest change in your dog, but stay calm and assess the facts. It’s quite normal for an older dog to sleep a lot, for instance, and for a younger, untrained dog to soil the house until she knows better.
As told to Stefanie Marsh
Dog About Town, How to Raise A Happy Dog In The City by Louise Glazebrook is out now (Hardie Grant, £12.99)