What tying up does to dogs

Dec 30 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

I often get asked by my clients if feel their dog is missing out a lot because they lack garden space. While a simple I answer is that a dog will indeed enjoy a garden, the less obvious fact is that garden space does not always mean good news to dogs.

Dogs are social animals. They are also interspecifically social. That means that they not only value the company of their own species, but ours too. That just goes to show how intensely social dogs are. Given this, one of the worst things we can do to a dog is to put them under solitary confinement. Tying a dog outside the house is just that from a dog’s perspective ­ solitary, as in no social contact with another dog or person and confinement, as in no ability to roam around freely.
A dog is not an animal that is content with good food and a soft surface to sleep on. A dog needs social contact, mental stimulation and choices.
When we tie a dog, we take away the basic choice an animal has to move around freely. This has more emotional impact on the animal than we realise. Lots of behavioural issues arise out of this. Dogs may react to the lack of choice by either going into depression or by acting out. When they decide to act out, it could be annoying actions like barking or dangerous actions like lunging and trying to bite.The fundamental problem here is that the dog has no choices and has therefore learned to go into a defensive mode every time he is nervous.Such a dog cannot be let out free overnight. There needs to be some work with a behaviourist to figure out how to transition a dog from being tied all the time to roaming free.But it is something that can be worked on if there is will on the side of pet parents.
The next aspect to look at is mental stimulation. A dog that spends all his time staring at the road is not getting much mental stimulation. Such dogs may act out by destroying things or developing strange habits like chasing their own tail, pacing up and down or howling.
A lot can be done to provide such dogs mental stimulation. From simple activities like treat search, where you scatter treats on the floor and the dog has to sniff it out, to nice slow walks on interesting new routes can be done. Slow walks are more challenging than we think.
If your dog has gotten used to pulling on a leash, he needs to be taught to take it easy and it’s a learning process for you too. But nothing that cannot be taught to a dog, irrespective of his age.
The last issue is that of social contact. Yes, dogs in apartments might not have gardens. But they have plenty of social contact that a dog kept outside all the time will not get. Such dogs never get fully socialised to humans and may always be wary of humans. The only way to fix this is to get them more used to people.
Reactive dogs may need some help. But for friendly dogs, it should not be a problem at all. Start with getting them used to family members and then close friends. Give them quality time indoors. Dogs value this a lot lot more than anything else we can provide them. And their company can do us a lot of good too. If you have not tried it yet, try talking about your day to your dog. They are amazing listeners.Give them a chance. They can be great friends.

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