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There are many ways in which you can prepare for, and participate in, you dogs overall health. Providing the necessary shots, diet and exercise are but a few of the ways in which we may meet their daily health demands. Still, there is one area which even many of the most well meaning owners, breeders, trainers, etc. overlook- the state of the animals mental health. Providing for this is just as important as is their physical well being.
Just what exactly can someone do to make sure their dog is mentally healthy and to detect and solve problems before they reach a critical stage? Many solutions are available to combat the stresses of kennel life, or of life indoors, for a dog which remain alone a good bit of the time.
First, many problems often occur as the result of simple boredom. Just how long do you think you could go behaving "correctly" if you were deprived of social, physical and mental stimulation? The length of time would vary from person to person. The same holds true of your dog. Dogs are social creatures and rely heavily upon your contact with them. Again, some more-so than others.
Still, as we all know, you cannot maintain 24 hour contact with any animal - unless maybe you were stranded on a island somewhere with only it as your companion.
There are many other responsibilities we all share in other areas family, career, etc.-which take up a great deal of our time and otherwise cut down on the amount we may spend in our kennels. It is for this reason that it is so important to plan things to keep your animal alert and stimulated mentally to cut down on problems which arise, most notably, from boredom. Boredom is one thing kennel animals (and house dogs as well) face on a daily basis. Not only is this very bad for the dog, but it is highly preventable as well. Many of the most common problems or anti-social behaviors occur as the result of boredom. Excessive barking, fence running, digging and stool eating are all examples that may initially begin as acting out behaviors to overcome boredom. Many of these problems could be solved with just a bit of forethought in the planning stages of kennel development. If your kennel or living area is already constructed, then there are many other ways you can provide for your animals mental health by overcoming or avoiding this problem.
First, where exactly does your dog spend most of its time? You can provide toys as a way to relieve the anxieties of kennel/inside life. Not only do toys provide stimulation and fun but they are the easiest place in which to start. Once you have made sure they are size appropriate for your dog you have a vast array of kinds and types from which to choose. If you are creative and good with your hands then you can create many things yourself. Who says "store bought" is always better? Most importantly, make sure that they are too large to swallow.
Providing a different toy each day or week on a rotating basis is one idea to prevent the dog from becoming bored with the object first introduced to relieve actual boredom. Moving the location of water and food dishes are another idea. The introduction of fruits or vegetable slices, such as carrots or apple slices, are another interesting item the dog doesn't get on a regular basis and also are good and safe supplements if the dog happens to eat them. Large marrow bones, kongs, hard rubber balls (larger than your dog can swallow), and stuffed animals are other choices. Remember, super- vision of these toys is a must, especially in the initial stages.
If the dogs kennel area will allow, hanging toys are a lot of fun for your pet. If suspended by a spring, they will snap back when the dog turns it loose. If you use a rope to suspend a toy make sure it is single strand. NEVER suspend it low enough that an accident may occur. The addition of bells or other types of noise makers are also good choices provided they are attached in such a way that the animal can't get to them. Remember that you will need to check these additions frequently for signs of wear or needed repair. If you allow your dogs out of their normal confinement, and you have an empty available space (large size is not required) in your fenced yard, then there are things you may add there as well to appease your dog. Obstacle courses can be set up in a minimum of space and with little or no monetary output. Being creative does help though it is not a necessity.
Tires partially buried, upright so that the dog may pass through them, are quite effective and fun once you teach the dog how to successfully navigate them. Even the larger wooden slides, ramps and walk throughs as found in many children play- grounds are very effective in working with your animals. While living in an apartment in the past, Cera and I frequently visited the playground of a local elementary school to play on their equipment when school was out. Needless to say, she loved it. Overall, the only limiting factor in overcoming boredom for your pets is you! Thinking creatively can easily modify your pets environment so that it is safe, interesting and fun. Freedom from boredom is not only essential for you but for your pets as well. Mental stimulation is important!
Article written and reprinted with permission of: http://www.pedigreedpups.com/ Purebred Dogs, Puppies and Dog Breeders - "Your New Best Friend"
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
Debbie Ray, owner of: http://www.pedigreedpups.com is a lifetime dog lover and owner and breeder of german shepherd dogs for over 15 years.