Having spent time living in Portugal, the sound of dogs barking aimlessly and even howling was common. Dogs in the country were still being used as burglar alarms and were chained, living a miserable life without walks, interest or much human contact. It is a pitiful existence and really makes the adage, ‘It’s a dog’s life’ ring true.
In The UK, our attitude to dogs is somewhat different, although there is, unfortunately plenty of examples of neglect and cruelty. On the whole, dogs are considered part of the family. Still, they are complex creatures and seem to have a variety of moods and sometimes you have to ask yourself, ‘Why Is My Dog Unhappy?’
There can be a multitude of reasons, some easy to fathom and others which frankly will only do well with a ‘Dog Whisperer.’ My dog, called Jake, was half Retriever and half Spaniel; he looked Spaniel when tired and Retriever when alert, the difference was quite remarkable. He was walked twice a day, every day without fail, in fact in all his twelve years he never missed even when the rain beat against the windows and the winds threatened to blow us off the cliffs. Routine is vital to a dog’s life and when they know things will happen they seem to accept most other things that are thrown at them.
Jake slept in a very robust kennel outside and around 11 he would stand up from his place in front of the television and stand by the patio doors; he had decided it was bedtime. I always feel that fresh air is great for most dogs and I never knew him sick – unless he wolfed some unspeakable object down on the beach before I could stop him. People used to call for him and say, ‘Can we take Jake for a walk please’ and off he would trot without a backward glance.
Dogs are unhappy, predominantly, when they are bored or when they don’t really understand a routine or think they have a higher place in the pecking order than they are really entitled to have. Lastly I think they are unhappy when they feel insecure. Long walks should be integral to every dog’s day, full stop. They need time to let off steam, have a good sniff in interesting territory, have the opportunity to be curious and also exercise. With plenty of affection, a good diet and a few games with their owners in the back garden or local park, they are usually pretty happy.
I remember one afternoon placing Jake’s ball on top of the pole used to secure the garden umbrella which was in the centre of a metal table. He went mad, running round the table trying to work out how to reach the ball. He barked and we laughed watching him for a while. He then sat down and looked at the conundrum, stood on his hind legs, wobbled the table and watched with delight as the ball rolled onto the floor. He snatched it up, did a circuit of the garden with tail high as if to say, ‘What a clever dog am I!’ As soon as we replaced the ball it was back within his grasp in seconds; dogs seem to love problem solving and dog training.
Therefore toys which encourage a little problem solving are great for young dogs; a session with one of those special Frisbees without a centre is another way of encouraging aerobic exercise and thinking skills. We were lucky enough to live by the sea and Jake spent many hours swimming, chasing his beloved ball and rolling over in the sand kicking out his legs.
See my disclosure here