We received a call this week from a woman who recently adopted a young dog (we’ll call him Brutus), bringing him into a house with an older dog (let’s say his name is Barkley). Both dogs are neutered Shepherd mixes.
Brutus is chewing everything in the house, harassing poor Barkley, and when left outside he digs, pulls up plants, and claws the fence and siding of the house.
I know from experience, and the woman’s exasperated voice, that there’s a good chance if things don’t change, Brutus is going to end up back in a shelter.
It doesn’t matter if Brutus is the same type of dog as Barkley, and Barkley was never hyperactive. We can often predict how a dog might act by knowing about the breed, but even littermates can be as different as apples and oranges—it serves no purpose to compare them. The good news is they can all be managed and trained the same way.
Frisky dogs like Brutus need to burn off a lot of energy during the day. If they don’t have enough to do, they will make their own games which can be exhausting and expensive for us. It’s great to have a nice sized yard for exercise, but it is never a great idea to leave him in the yard alone. That can be dangerous for a lot of reasons. Also, most dogs aren’t that good at entertaining themselves out in the yard. Even if more than one dog is outside, they might play for a few minutes, but then they just lounge around, or they look for trouble out of boredom. If you want your dog to get quality exercise in the backyard, you are going to have to commit to games of fetch, Frisbee, tug, or chase. If he loves to dig, make him a sandbox and bury treats and toys for him to discover. If he tries to dig somewhere else, tell him “No Digging!” and then lure him over to the designated area and encourage him to “Find it!”
Alone during the day, Brutus needs to be in a doggy-proofed room or crate, and Barkley should have his own safe, quiet area away from the younger dog.
Safe inside the house, Brutus still has energy to burn that a walk around the block isn’t going to take out of him, and we don’t want him chewing at the crate or door frame or becoming self-destructive. Having a friend or dog walker come play in the yard for an hour a day is ideal, or finding a reputable dog daycare. Enrichment opportunities for this young dog are crucial. I would advocate for work-to-eat toys instead of feeding Brutus from a bowl, basic obedience training, lots of fun chews and an intense workout more than once a day. Increasing mental and physical exercise by assigning “legal” activities for the dog to enjoy often is the difference between distress and a happy household.
For more info about the training services offered at the Louisiana SPCA, visit www.la-spca.org/training.