What Does Your Dog Do When He’s Neglected?

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This past week, I’ve been working around the clock to get the July issue done. In the process Otto has been seriously neglected in the areas of exercise and focused attention. I skipped our Thursday night agility class. I took him for only one short walk, from our home to my office (about two blocks!) and back. (This only made matters worse, because I didn’t let him stay with me at the office for long; he’s so obsessed with wanting to kitten-watch that he whines and paces when I close the door between him and the foster kittens. So instead of it being a “treat” to come with me to the office, it was nearly a punishment, it was so fraught with frustration for him.)

My husband works at home, and Otto does enjoy hanging out with him while I’m working at our “away” home office. He also tosses treats to Otto every time he makes any sort of food for himself, which Otto thoroughly enjoys. So he’s not being completely neglected; like I said, he’s just not getting as much training and hard exercise as usual.

He’ll be four years old this year, so the lack of exercise no longer results in all the chewing- and digging-related puppy/adolescent naughty behaviors that it used to, thank goodness.

It has, however, resulted in a big upswing in boredom-related alarm barking, especially at night. When he’s well-exercised, it takes something out of the ordinary, such as the frightful YOWL of a feral cat fight down the block, to spur him into an episode of nighttime barking.  This week, however, he’s been set to hair-trigger. I know this because I automatically roll out of bed for every fit of barking that persists more than a couple seconds. I go to the screen door and look out to see what he’s barking at, in case it’s something justifiable – teenagers checking for unlocked cars on the street or the like. Then I say, “Otto, please! I really need to sleep! Pleeeese be quiet!”

(Don’t say, “Why don’t you keep him in the house at night?”  We live in an area that is hot and dry – and we don’t have air-conditioning. At night we open all the windows and doors that have screens, and use fans to push the hot air out of the house and draw cooler air inside. With all those windows and doors open, Otto can hear everything going on outside, and believe me, if his big booming bark can wake me up instantly when he’s outside, it practically propels me onto the ceiling when he does it indoors.  Plus, he likes being out at night, especially in the summer. He doesn’t tolerate the heat during the day very well, sleeping through most of it in his shady, damp sandbox. He stays awake and busy most of the night – chewing, patrolling, pacing, and playing with his toys. He can’t do those things indoors at night without getting yelled at by sleep-deprived humans.)

I can’t blame Otto for his outbursts; it’s totally my fault. But sometimes our other responsibilities take precedence over our dogs’ best interests. And I’ll do my best to make it up to him this week with long off-leash trail walks, some swimming (well, he wades) in the river, and maybe a mountain bike ride.  In the meantime, for just one more night, Otto? Pleeeease let me get a little more sleep?

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