Not Always Fun

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I’ve had relatively trouble-free dogs for a while. Long enough to forget how bad an owner can feel when one of our pets puts us between a rock and a hard place.

I have a friend who owns three dogs: a senior Chihuahua; a middle-aged probable Lab/Cattle Dog-mix; and 5-year-old Lena, a tall, lanky, who-knows-what-mix. Lena used to be (my dog) Otto’s BFF. They are still friends, but don’t get to see each other a lot, ever since Lena tore her ACL and had surgery . . . and her surgeon advised her owner that Lena’s hips are highly dysplastic and will likely require surgery at some point. Otto and Lena used to love to chase each other at HIGH speeds, and wrestle and play with total abandon; they’d play until they were both covered in spit and panting for breath, then they’d dig a hole in Otto’s sandbox and nap, and then get up, stretch, and start all over again. And then they would both be sleepy for a day or two afterward.

Of course, as she recovered from her surgery, Lena was put on a restricted activity protocol. And her veterinarian advised that she basically not be allowed to fetch balls or play at high speed with her hooligan buddy anymore, to preserve everything: her repaired knee, the other knee (often a dog who tears one will tear the other), and her crappy hips. Her owner has learned how to keep her entertained with food-stuffed toys, low-speed fetch, “puzzle” games (with hidden food), frozen bowls of water with chunks of hot dogs and other treats, etc. But she’s often bored and prone to destroying things when she’s left home (with the other dogs) during the work day. She’s taken books off bookshelves (and chewed them); gotten on top of the washer/dryer to reach things hanging on the wall above them (and chewed them); and chewed untold numbers of shoes, pillows, and other household items – despite having a limitless supply of raw bones, rawhide, pizzles, sticks, balls, etc. (And it’s not just pica eating; she rarely consumes any of it – just chews.)

So she can’t be left inside during the day. Instead, her owner built an elaborate kennel on concrete, with a roof and walls on two sides, and provided a princess-and-the-pea pile of dog beds. Which sufficed until my friend bought a new house, closer to town, and moved.

At the new place, my friend paid for a huge area to be fenced for the dogs, graveled the whole area with pea gravel except for some areas where she put down sand (for digging and more comfortable napping), built a sandbox in a shady corner, provided a wading pool, and filled a former tool shed with dog beds. Lucky dogs, right? Lena doesn’t think so. She’s taken to barking her fool head off all day while my friend is at work. And the new neighbors are complaining.

Never mind the fact that my friend has done everything she can to make both her dogs and her neighbors happy. She’s been working with all her dogs on their recall, so if they see a neighbor and start to bark, she can immediately call them to her and redirect them to another activity. She introduced herself and her dogs to the neighbors when she moved in, and explained that she had been living farther in the country, with no close neighbors in sight, and that the dogs might need some time to adjust. She supplied the closest neighbors – the couple that shares a fence line with the new dog run — with dog treats, and suggested tossing some over the fence if they are out in the yard and the dogs are barking. She gave them her phone number and said, “Don’t hesitate to call.”

They responded with an unsigned nasty note left on her gate the first day she left the dogs in their pen when she went to work.

One neighbor has been friendly and approachable, and offered my friend more detailed information. He said it’s just Lena who is barking. I loaned my friend a noise-activated tape recorder which confirmed that it’s just Lena.

My friend’s options:

Rehome the dog? Not going to happen.

Exercise the dog more? But those hips, those knees!

Leave her inside during the day? God knows what she will destroy.

Tell the neighbors to . . . ?  Be not very nice to the neighbors? Not a great way to fit in, and not very safe for the dogs.

Daycare/dog walker? Out of my friend’s price range.

Drop her off at my house daily? I’m not always home . . . and even when I am, there is the matter of keeping a lid on her and Otto. They want to play! Although, she’s here today, and the heat is keeping them relatively quiet so far.

So, my friend is very unhappily looking at shock/bark collars.  Until she tries one, she doesn’t know if Lena will be the type of dog who figures it out and accepts it – or one of the dogs who develops an extreme fear or aggressive response to being shocked when she barks at someone or something. But she feels like she has few other acceptable options.

Any more ideas?

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