Friday, January 20, 2012

The Large Yard Epidemic

As a dog lover, I follow a lot of groups and websites about dogs. As a shopping lover, I follow shopping/swapping sites like Facebook groups and www.craigslist.org. I've noticed a very scary trend - the "I have a large yard" trend. I know it's nothing new, but I don't think people understand the issue with it.

Hundreds of dogs are advertised for sale, for trade and for free on the sites I've mentioned and those like them every day...I'd even venture to say by the hour. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3Daz6_pWLo Watch that video...it includes many of the popular excuses - not enough time, the dog grew bigger than expected and so on. Without even meeting the dog and seeing if it's meant to be, people vie and fight over these poor little critters. A popular phrase when replying is "I have a large yard so he/she will get plenty of exercise."

Wait. Are you telling me that's all I need? A large yard? My dog will run, leap and play all on his own and come in all tired and calm? Wow, that's amazing! If only it were true. Dogs are intelligent animals that require stimulation. They love toys and large places to run, yes, but they need YOU. Dogs that are under-stimulated will be hyper and bored. They'll more than likely dig lots of holes in your yard and chew up lots of things you don't want them to. Will throwing a ton of toys out for them solve the problem? No. Does throwing a two year old child a bunch of toys every day keep them from getting bored? No. They need human interaction. Dogs, which have been said to have the intelligence like a two year old child, are the same way.

I don't care if you have 1 acre, 5 acres, or 100 acres, your dog still needs you. They need walks with you, play time with you, training time with you.

We live on a 1 acre lot with 1/4 acre fenced for the dogs. They are walked and played with every day. (They stay inside except when I'm home and let them out.) I do this plus work a 10 hour day and take care of household duties, so "I don't have time" is never an excuse. You ALWAYS have time for the things you care about.

I have met dogs that live in "large yards" and, in comparison to mine, they were incredibly hyper and their owner was pulling their hair out about the holes the dog was digging and all of the things he/she had chewed up.When I would suggest walks and play time, what I got was, "Oh, we don't have to do that. We have a large yard. He/she is just a bad dog - I'm hoping he/she grows out of this chewing and digging thing. If he/she doesn't, well, I guess he/she will just have to go to a new home."

Really? You'd give up your dog when it's actually YOUR fault? They make so many great things now - doggie puzzles, treat dispensing toys and super squeaky toys...all things that can help keep your dog's attention while you're away/busy. You should still devote about two hours to spend with your dog every day. It's really not as hard as it might sound, especially if your dog is indoors. I'll use Axle as an example:

When I get home, I change clothes while he goes outside to use the bathroom. We go for a 3 mile walk - it takes 45 min to an hour. When we get back, I let him rest and walk Bo for about 1 mile (he hasn't worked up to longer walks yet). We get back and Bo goes back outside. Axle gets training time - about 15 min of going through basic commands. Then, the two of them follow me around inside while I clean, cook, etc. When evening comes, we all relax on the couches and watch TV. Somewhere in there, we'll play chase the ball (they don't fetch very well), do some crazy agility exercises (jump over the couch, now freeze!) and just relax together.

See, it's really not hard. When your dogs are a integral part of your life, you'll spend way more time with them than you realize. I spend almost every waking minute with mine after I get home from work. I'd hate to imagine if my dogs had ended up living with someone that had just a "large yard."

Is your dog living in a "large yard" situation? Now's the time to change it! Take your dog for a walk when you get home, throw a ball for them, or just play around. They'll be happier, you'll be happier, and your bonds will grow stronger! :) Love, peace and pibbles!

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