The Pets Doc

Dr. Kevin Watkins, DVM

812-273-1803

Keeping Fido Warm – Train Your Dog To Live Indoors

It’s January again, folks. Will everyone just say “Brrrrrrr” with me?

Winter time in southern Indiana can get pretty darned cold, and in my opinion, stays far too long. We live in an old house, so inevitably, winter creeps in under the back door. When I get cold, I just throw on another sweater and a pair of warm socks, and once in awhile I’ll even turn the heat up. Old house = large heating bill. You understand.

But even with all my complaining about the cold, I still have it pretty good. At least we have a house with heat. Some Jefferson County residents aren’t that lucky. Some don’t live in heated houses, and some… don’t live in a house at all. Even worse, some live on a chain in their backyard. Kudos to the City of Los Angeles for recently voting to ban long-term tethering of dogs to fixed objects.

Unfortunately, too many dogs spend their lives outside, sometimes at the end of a rope or chain, with no thought or care given for their emotional, mental and physical needs.

I believe that every dog deserves to be indoors with the “pack.” Like humans, dogs are social creatures, and they require and enjoy social interaction. The widely-known picture of “Dogs Playing Poker” is a perfect example.

I jest, but my point is valid. Dogs love to be with people and/or other dogs. They love to play, or just hang out and watch TV. They don’t care what you are doing, they just want to be doing it with you.

Dogs that are tied up and isolated for long periods of time become depressed, territorial and, ultimately, aggressive. I’ll never forget the man who complained to me that he couldn’t get into his barn anymore because he’d tied the dog too close to the door.

I had to ask. “Well, how long has your dog been tied to the barn?” “Nine years,” he said. Thank God, that poor dog is long dead by now. But there are still others out there today, living in our county and in every state across the country who do not have adequate shelter, food or water and no hope for social interaction with anyone.

Why do so many dogs end up living in the back yard? Ninety percent of them are there because of destructive behavior that the owner will no longer tolerate. But household destruction is a preventable problem, and it is not the dog’s failing that it ultimately gets “the boot.” I really have a problem with people who adopt a dog, don’t train or socialize it, and then kick it outdoors or relinquish it to the animal shelter because, “it destroys their stuff.” Then, they adopt another dog and start the whole process over again. In the meantime, they neglect to get the dog spayed or neutered, so another litter of unwanted puppies ends up at the Island of Misfits, a.k.a. the Jefferson County Animal Shelter.

It is our obligation to be educated and responsible pet owners. If you are a new puppy owner, please take the time to educate yourself. The training phase in a dog’s life lasts only a few months. But it’s vitally important, and it may make all the difference in the world to that dog next January.

Margo Watkins, Pet Behavior Counselor

Pawsitive Pet Behavior Blog