Our beloved canines’ lives are short, and we want them to relish each minute. We want them to run free, play hard, roll in the mud, fetch the biggest sticks in the park and savor the juiciest bones — in the greenest grass, under the shadiest trees, in their own vast Edens.
After a long day of such pleasures, we can watch them slumber so contently that the mere sight of the satisfaction on their dreaming, slobbering faces brings on our own vicarious stillness of soul. It is a life that we envy and a calmness we secretly crave for ourselves.
This is the picture we paint before bringing a new dog home. It all seems so simple — until our pups run off, bite hard, roll only in the smelliest mud, knock over children and elderly pedestrians with the biggest sticks in the park, guard juicy bones, eat the greenest grass, bark incessantly at the shadiest trees and dig holes all over their beautiful doggie Edens.
What went wrong? Why don’t these canines realize that we are offering them freedom?
What we have is a failure to create boundaries. A canine craves structure, routine and purpose. It is our job to define the expectations that we have for our pups through proper training, management and communication.
Crates, exercise pens, training leashes, tethers and baby gates are just some of the useful tools to create physical boundaries in and around the home. Some people feel that confinement is cruel and would rather let their pups roam free. But a lack of management strategies normally leads to problems, from poor house training to anxiety or even safety issues.
For example, if you have an adolescent puppy who still is learning and testing his boundaries, he might decide to chew on an electric wire or rip up and swallow items around the house. This can lead to some massive vet bills — or worse.
Begin with tight restrictions, and then reward with more liberties as your pup develops and learns. A dog who earns independence will build confidence and self-esteem. The time you award him to be a free dog will be all the more valuable, and he will love you even more for it.
Andrea J. Lamping trains dogs in the greater airport area, including Sewickley, Moon, and Robinson. She can be reached at 724-984-7829, or visit her website at www.moon-walkers.com.