Every Dog Every Day

7. lifestyle: at home


The overall approach to living with dogs

One of the blessings of sharing a whole life with a dog from their birth is a chance to appreciate the small details in their development. If we are lucky to have more than one dog, they will give us endless entertainment as we see their relationship with each other, and with us, develop.

We breed a type of dog that lives and breathes to share their lives with people. Although the pups have the company of their siblings and a nearby dam, once introduced to human company and the pleasure it gives them they crave that company.

Be nearby and visit often

There are times when we get the screaming sessions from the puppy pen. All I have to do is be close to the pen and they will settle within a few seconds. It does not require me to talk to them, touch them, or pick them up. They can sense the presence of a responsible adult perhaps?

I challenge myself with the question as to how this relates to nature’s blueprint. The pups would be either den bound for safety whilst the pack is away or out and about with adult guardians.

On a documentary about the African Wild Dogs the statement that puppies make tasty snacks for many predators sticks in my mind. We have inherited so many of the original blueprint features that we cannot selectively presume that any undesirable trait we do not wish to see in our dogs is not still there. Take the example of rolling in faeces – what function can that possible serve in today’s dogs? But it still continues to breed reliably true.

Puppies leave the den on exploratory missions. They go to and fro their safety, always ready to return to the den if the alarm bark sounds. Good survival instinct. I like my pups to find their own way from their bed to the newspaper, from the pen in the sitting room to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the porch, from the porch to the garden. All at their own rate.

If they are picked up and placed in a new environment and it goes unpredictable or dangerous they can bolt in every direction and sometimes towards the danger. By letting the pups workout and practice their route to and fro the den they can respond quickly in emergencies. Much the same as we practice fire safety drills – through regular practice we will respond as desired if the occasion demands it.

This sense of safety whilst exploring may have a connection to the presence of the responsible adult. When they do not feel the guardian close a scream can be triggered until a guardian arrives. This scream and baby howl can continue for very long periods. I have read that puppies left alone on their first week in a new home can scream and howl for 3 hours. There is absolutely no necessity to put a young animal through that degree of distress. Even when we wean lambs from the ewes, they are in fields side by side.

As we wean pups from their mother we need to wean pups from human contact in preparation of being home alone.

Weaning by its very nature is a graduated process not sudden or absolute.


The first days at home

My recommendation for that first week with the pups in a new environment is to be prepared to be nearby at all times and visit often whilst awake. Either you plan to spend a few nights sleeping on the sofa, or if you have invested in a crate, have this in your bedroom. The crate needs to be a place of comfort and familiarity, the place the puppy is fed, has toys for self-entertainment and you will be in close proximity. A crate is perfect to place by the side of your chair in the sitting room, by your computer, in the kitchen, in the back of your car. Available from many shops, no puppy should be crate-less.
Leave the door open for self-access by choice and because this is the place with the most comfortable sleeping invitation they will naturally take themselves to bed. You can shut the door for protection for the puppy if you are busy cooking and a pup around your feet would be a liability. You can shut the door if the pup is around com- puter cables. A pup in a crate in the back of the car is a safe trav- eller.

Your crate will also become a necessary piece of furniture. I usually cover the top of the crate in a blanket and of course much “stuff” needs to find their home on the crate. You will miss it when it is gone. Most crates are fold down variety that are excellent for trips away from home – hotel rooms, your in-laws kitchen. Keeping everyone safe and happy. Fences make good neighbours, crates keep you and your dog welcome guests.

When they wake at daylight, 5am, they can be taken out for a quick pee and then returned to the crate whilst still sleepy, given a snack and a toy (one that is quiet, not a pop bottle that will crackle and crunch) and left for another couple of hours peace and quiet – with you nearby. Winter pups are not easy for the breeder to manage, but they do contribute late risers. Puppies do not sleep in when day- light has arrived.

As with all processes plan to gradually move towards the end goal in small steps. If you wish the adult dog to sleep in the kitchen or laundry room, begin to move your crate in that direction. On a weekly basis move from the bedroom to the landing, half way down the stairs, bottom of the stairs etc. By 5 or 6 months they can be aware of someone in the house with greater skill and do not need the very close proximity.

At the same time as your proximity you can associate various conditions that the pup will learn to recognise as you being close. The sound of typing on the keyboard, music or the TV, or your voice on the phone. If you can record these noises they may be useful when it is necessary for the pup to be left alone in the early days of being home alone.

When a pup feels abandoned they will scream. Avoid this sense of abandonment at all costs and you can develop a dog content, if not happy, to wait for your return home.

A fear of abandonment as a pup may begin a lifetime of separation anxiety.

From observing many litters of puppies I have no doubt that some individuals feel the abandonment far greater than others. Much the same as people. There are folk who need to feel relatives nearby and visit often and continuing to live in the same neighbourhoods. Also those who move to new countries, become colonisers or live in rural isolation.

This content-to-wait-for-your-return needs to be graduated to a variety of places that represent security to your dog, your car for instance, and the crate can be the association that makes this transference easier to understand. Again with the car, begin with a similar protocol as the night time crate migration. Be nearby, then near and visit often. Dogs only become distressed being left in cars if you begin the process too suddenly or for too long.


Connection by mirroring

These two Goldies are litter siblings. They came to live with each other after tragic circumstances at about 14 months old. They dispell the myth that litter brothers would fight and be in conflict.

That may be the case with some siblings but these two had a strong connection when puppies and bonded within minutes of sharing the same house.

You can see from these photos, taken, within the first 24 hours, that their body language reflects each other, by imitation and emotion.

Clear evidence of their bond.

photos by Joanne Fisher

Connect and Share

sounds like a biscuit …….


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