Allen Parton and Canine Partner Endal with the staff of the new Canine Centre in Sussex. Story page 5.
The magazine your dog would want you to read
Editorial: August-September 2007
Keep your dog physically
and emotionally safe
MOST responsible owners know that having a dog as part of the family is not an easy task, nor is it a matter of tossing them daily a few cheap biscuits from the local supermarket. Caring for a dog is very much like caring for a child except that the dog’s whole lifespan is experienced in anything from 8-18 years.
It is now fairly widely acknowledged that if we fed our dogs decent food instead of the toxic waste we are told by most companies is ‘perfectly balanced for the dog’s needs’, and used less toxic chemicals to bathe them in, to dose them with and to over-inoculate them with on a regular basis, they could have a lifespan of 20 or even 30 years. But then, the record of we humans is such that we do not even do our best for ourselves and much of our own food is as toxic as the dogs’ food!
Keeping our dog/s safe means so much more than providing good food, eliminating chemicals and keeping the living quarters warm and dry. It means keeping the dog out of the way of harm and to do this we must anticipate how fickle children can be, how cruel some humans can be, and how unforgiving a collision between a dog and a car would be.
If you do not have a well-fenced area with no holes through or under the fence, and with access to your house (probably through the rear door or laundry door), then you should not have a dog until you can provide such an area. A dog that can wander on to the road or footpath is unsafe. On the road it can be killed (or can cause an accident in which car occupants may be killed and you as the owner will be responsible), and on the footpath it can be confronted by aggressive stray dogs, children that will tease until the dog defends itself (again you will be responsible for any bites and the dog will often pay with its life) or adults that may kick or otherwise injure the dog. In many countries the dog could also end up as dinner for a snake or crocodile, or a victim of theft or the dog ranger.
So perhaps you have thought of all those possibilities and your dog has a safe and secure back yard to play in while you are at work or away for the day. Can you feel complacent? No remember the meter reader, the postie, the plumber, the window cleaner, the maintenance person and all the other regulars do they need to go into the dog’s area? If they do, then the dog is not safe. Can you guarantee that they will shut the gate? Do you know that they even like dogs and will treat your dog well? Are they going to be aware of your dog’s whereabouts while they go about their job? Will your dog be out of the way if a ladder falls, if a bucket drops to the ground or if a piece of broken glass falls out of a window? Such things you can never rule out.
Even if your dog is confined to a kennel and run while you are out it may not be safe. Unthinking visitors, workmen or children can let it out to play while they are there and forget to put it back in the run or forget to shut the gate. Never rely on anyone’s promises as these, too, can be forgotten. The safest place for your dog when nobody is home is in the locked house. If you will be away for most of the day and must leave the dog outside then make sure the gate is securely locked and your dog is preferably in a locked, steel-framed run with shed or kennel access for shelter.
Many people leave their dog in the garage when they will be away for a few hours, but unless both access doors are firmly locked the dog is not safe in there (and that is not even considering the number of toxic substances that can be accessible in a garage). I know of one show Labrador that was in the garage while the builders were there for the day but one builder heard the dog barking and let it out to play (not at all bright!) without thinking about where it would play or what it would do when strangers confronted it. Needless to say the dog saw strangers and ran … straight on to the road and was killed! The owners were never compensated as their dog was not ‘secure’ (similar to leaving your car door unlocked and having it stolen you should have made it secure!).
Emotionally, you need to think about the way your dog feels in any situations why do we expect our dogs to be more emotionally balanced than we are ourselves? Your dog needs to know he/she is loved and cared for, respected and appreciated, in the same way that humans do. Dogs get angry just as humans do they get sad or depressed like us and they feel hurt or sick just as we do. Unfortunately if they are unwell they hide it much better than we do, as their pack instinct tells them their survival depends on it. That means we must try to learn all the canine signals that tell us when our dog is not well. Dogs can feel jealous or happy, tired or full of energy, hungry, fearful or playful, in the same way that humans do.
So next time your dog does something you can not understand, just ask yourself what you would have done in the same situation. There are parallels for each and every reaction: yelling at someone or swearing (barking or growling); hitting someone or pushing them away (nipping or biting while backing off); yelling, screaming or running away in fear (barking, growling and running away); fighting with someone you fear and trying to escape (growling, pulling back and biting to try and escape).
I think that now is a good time to ask dog owners to begin a project that will help them get to know their dog better. In an exercise book write down your dog’s mannerisms and actions every day for at least a month. Write down any little things that you notice about your dog’s behaviour and when that behaviour occurs, when your dog looks and acts happy, sad, tired or ready for a run, what does the dog do to try and tell you how it feels? What were you doing at the time (you may notice that a certain behaviour of yours will trigger a behavioural reaction in your dog)?
After a month I have no doubt that you will be a much better and more considerate owner and will have a better understanding of your dog’s communication signals. - Elezabeth