Pet Lady Article
The Great Outdoors—or is it?
Q: My dog constantly barks all night long and the neighbors are beginning to complain. I go out and yell at him, but he just starts up again after I go back inside. He’s got plenty to do with a fenced in yard, a doghouse, and lots of toys. How can I teach him to be quiet?
A: I get this question a lot, but most people who ask it don’t like my answer---bring the dog inside! Now, I know people have a million reasons why they can’t do that. Some say the dog is not housetrained, he gets on furniture, he chews things up, or they just don’t want the fur and dirt. The list goes on and on. However, I can come up with a much longer list of reason why you shouldn’t leave your dog outside—boredom leading to barking and self mutilation, sunburn, fly strike, heatstroke, frustration from passing dogs and humans leading to aggression, children teasing through fence, poisoning by neighbors, escaping, and theft with the intent on reselling the dog to a laboratory. I could go on and on as well. Fortunately, there are far more solutions to the dilemma of behavior problems for the dog kept indoors than there are for a dog left outdoors. Training is the key. A dog is far easier to train if he is kept indoors with the family. Training is constantly happening when you interact with your dog on a continual basis instead of just a few moments each day with an outdoor dog. You have to take the time to teach the dog good manners; they don’t just happen. Start by enrolling in a class to help both you and the dog learn how to communicate with each other. This, however, will not in itself teach the dog good house manners. Classes help give the dog some basic skills to then perfect at home. An indoor dog does much better during classes because they spend more time with their humans learning. Dogs also need plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Even though your outside dog may seem like he has plenty of place to run, he probably spends most of his day sleeping. He needs interaction with you—throwing a ball or a stick or taking him for long walks. Then he’ll be much calmer when you bring him inside. Keep an eye on your dog when you first introduce him to the house. A tether helps keep the dog near you so you know what he’s up to the whole time. Don’t give the dog too much freedom in the house at first so you can advise him on what is o.k. to do and what is not. Getting up on the counters, for instance, is a no-no. Call him away from the counters, ask for a sit and a down, and give him a nice stuffed Kong to keep him interested for a while. Soon you will have a dog who can come in and enjoy time with the family in the evening instead of barking and disturbing the neighbors.
A word to cat people: Cats are also much safer indoors too. Many people feel their cat will not be happy if kept indoors, but they can learn to enjoy the comforts of indoor life. With feline diseases of Feline Immunovirus and Feline Leukemia, it’s so much safer to keep your cats inside. Plus there is the danger of other animals, cars, and poisons. To convert your cat to an indoor cat, be sure to have plenty of fun things indoor for your cat to do--lots of climbing places, hiding spots to explore, and some catnip toys. You can even grow some organic catnip for nibbling. Take time to play with your cat every day to stimulate his desire to hunt and chase. Building an enclosed cat run off the house gives cats a safe outdoor experience. A screened porch is also a fun place for cats to sun themselves. Consider bringing both Fluffy and Fido in for a loving family experience. They will be happier and healthier for it, and you will enjoy the loving companionship of a lifelong furry friend.