YOU reach the front door, nerves smouldering from work and stress and their reignited at the racket within. Are they disembowelling a wildebeest? Shouldering the door against the Tasmanian devils, an exploded bolster cushion trips your journey.
What’s on Earth is that smell? No, no, oh God no! Dogs ready to jump.
As for jumping up? I have one friend with a shoulder pinned back together, and another with a broken wrist injury — with a larger dog, the disrespectful pounce and land is potentially very dangerous.
Turns out the barking, the bouncing, the barging is a matter of owner heal thyself. Heather Walsh, owner of Paws and Pencil is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland, and offers dog training and dog walking in Cork. She’s turned around typical and then more unusual rogue behaviours, rooted in sheer confusion, not naughtiness, she says.
“Most dogs will not cope well with being left home alone all day, and consequently, most rescue shelters will not rehome a dog where they will be alone all day.
“Hiring a dog walker to walk or to simply play with your pooch at home can break up the monotony and loneliness.
You should also consider leaving the dog with safe, interactive food toys like Kongs, K9 Connectables, activity balls etc, to keep them occupied. Finding a qualified, insured dog walker can be tricky and doggie day-care is also an option.
Dogs are pack animals, and it’s easy to forget that being alone goes against millions of years of evolution, she says. “Dogs with signs of distressing separation anxiety may need veterinary help and extensive, specialised behaviour modification with the help of a qualified behaviourist or trainer.”
So, are my dogs just insecure? I’m rarely out. Why do they still devour every left shoe I own? (It’s only ever the left). Don’t they respect my glares, roars, posturing?
Heather suggests a dedicated period of training for the dog and owner to get rid of unwanted habits — but explains it’s not a case of being top dog.
“The whole pack leader thing has been debunked [read or search online for Dominance in dogs — Fact or Fiction, an eBook by Barry Eaton]. Just like kids, dogs need rules and boundaries, but the best way to teach them is with scientifically proven methods that work to motivate the dog to want to obey you, not by intimidating him. Dogs are supposed to be our best friend, not our slaves.”
Our youngest cat likes to sit on windowsills and wail, even when the cat door is yawning open. How cutesy-bootsy adorable is that? The trouble is she levers her not inconsiderable lumpen self up there by fastening her claws onto the rubber gaskets of the double-glazed units, pulling them out like thick spaghetti.
I’m now a crack shot with a water pistol. Dogs might be duped by treats and affection on cue, but how do you motivate a cat? I’ve seen rabbits peeing in the toilet online. My cats are emotional nightmares and, water pistol aside, they are deftly and successfully training me.
“Cats can certainly be trained,” Heather says. “My sister and I trained our cat Sooty to sit, give a paw and jump through a hoop using positive reinforcement. However, while dogs have been bred for centuries to work alongside us, cats have always kept their independence.
Food and toys will motivate most cats, but if they are overfed then they may not care enough. Common behavioural problems like scratching, toileting inappropriately and so on, are usually down to an underlying stress, so the solution will be to remedy that, not training per se.
All right, so supposing that Edgar and Brian the Bratislavan Nuthounds are now paw perfect, what about the honk, the hair, the endless cleaning?
After years of living in your own personal pack, every owner becomes nose blind. Let’s face it — we wince in judgement at the pervasive pong of other people’s dogs/cats/hamsters, but at home, the essence of little darling’s emissions hangs heavy on every surface, undetected.
Do housebound dogs have too much roam? Heather doesn’t dismiss the crate, but like many experienced trainers advises limited use, not daylong restriction.
“Dog crates/cages are a great training tool for helping with toilet training and teaching the dog to settle, but they can be abused. There’s loads of information on Youtube showing how to have a dog that loves their crate.
“There are always exceptions, but generally, I think it is unfair to crate a dog for more than a couple of hours at a time during the day, and they should have comfortable bedding, water access and some safe toys.”
Regular cleaning of hair is really the only way to get ahead of the fur balls blowing across those hard floors.
“Next time we buy a vacuum cleaner I’ll get one of the fancy dog ones — we spend as much time de-clogging the hoover as we do using it.”
I would add here that the rubber brushes available in hand and pole versions in any DIY shop are fantastic for rolling up hair off rugs between full house cleans. Enzymatic cleaners free of chlorine, ammonia, butyl, glycol ether— we like BioKleen Bac Out, 946ml, €8.99, i.herb.com.
The bedroom should really be a no-no for dogs – in my experience with over-confident JRTs (Jack Russell terriers), the message you’re sending is ‘you are of high status being here on our bed with us’. Soon, the odd snarl reminds you that you’re lost even this slender territory.
“We don’t personally allow our dog in our bedroom,” Heather admits, “as it’s the only room in our house with a pale carpet. There’s nothing wrong cuddling up with your pooch if you want to, just make sure you set some ground rules.
“Safety first. Every year I hear of pups breaking bones jumping off beds. Also, if your dog has ever shown any signs of aggression or is tetchy if woken suddenly, then seek professional help.
“I also like the rule that the dog is only allowed up on beds or couches if they are invited; this will help avoid them jumping up on furniture when you bring them visiting.”
With thanks to Heather Watson. pawsandpencils.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland, apdt.ie. petsittersireland.com – walkers and sitters from €23 a visit/solo walk.