Latch Keye Canines Part 2

  1. Establish Routines

Dogs learn most quickly and seem to feel most secure with consistent routines.  Dogs who know they spend certain times with you and certain times on their own will quickly adjust to that provided their physical and mental needs are being met on a regular basis.

 A typical routine which would satisfy most dogs belonging to working owners might look something like this:

 Time               Dog‘s Diary

6 am               40 minute walk including run at off Leash Park.  Met that gorgeous Golden Retriever again and we played.

7 am               Left with stuffed Kong full of treats, took ages to empty.

10am              Slept in the sun for a few hours.

2 pm               Explored the back garden and found another smoked marrowbone in my secret spot!  Chewed to my hearts content.

4pm                Must have dozed off again.  Think I’ll go in the doggy door and snooze near the front door – getting close to coming home time.

6 pm               “She’ home!  She’s home!  She’s home!”

7 pm               Watch mum and dad eat dinner.  I got some left over good bits!

8 pm               On lead walk around the block for 20 minutes.  Gee smells are great at night.

9pm                Played tug of war with dad on the floor.  He’s pretty strong – he won twice, I won once.

10pm              Allowed to cuddle with mum on couch in front of TV – does life get any better than this?

10:30pm         Biscuit & Bed – goodnight!

If you work irregular hours it will be much harder for your dog to adapt. In this case try to provide some consistency by hiring a professional dog walker or part time carer (see below ‘Share the Care’). Making sure the dog has frequent opportunities to eat is also essential as you don’t want to add hunger to the stress of wondering when you’ll be home.

  1.  Share-the-Care

You are not the only time-short dog owner in your community.  Why not see if someone else has a dog that would rather not be alone all day and take turns letting them spend the day together. If your dog is the type to prefer people perhaps there is an elderly couple who would love to spend some time with a dog but are not prepared to take on the full time responsibility of another pet of their own. Make up a flyer with a picture of your dog, what sort of assistance you are looking for and drop it in letterboxes around your block.

  1. Doggy Day Care    

Not yet common in Australia, Doggy Day Care is a growing industry in the US precisely to meet the needs of the ‘latch key canines’.  Doggy Day Cares are only suitable for highly social dogs and even then most managers suggest only enrolling the dog for two to three days a week as they may get ‘overstimulated’ – sound like kindergarten kids?  If you feel there is a need for doggy day care in your area why not start one yourself?

  1. Dog Walkers

If you are really pressed for time you might consider the services of a growing number of professional dog walkers.  Knowing your dog has already had a good run when you come home is a great way to relax and enjoy your dog without feeling ‘guilty’ or pressured to go out again yourself.  If you can’t afford a professional walker try asking around the neighbourhood again, there may be someone who walks for fitness that would be happy to take a well-behaved four-legged companion with them.

  1. Take your dog to work?

Some of the happiest and best trained dogs in the world belong to tradesman who can take their dogs on the job with them.  Just being together so many hours per day usually results in a good working relationship.  Some nurses, shop keepers and office workers have also managed to bring their well behaved pooches into work with them.  It may be just a pipe dream for most of us but there’s no harm in trying.

  1. Performance Sports

Need a hobby?  Ever thought about spending your weekends competing in performance sports with your dog?  Agility is the fastest growing dog sport in the world and it is easy to see why.  It’s a great way for suburban dogs and owners to burn off excess energy while negotiating jumps, tunnels and other obstacles.  Agility enhances training skills while having loads of fun and exercise.  Other activities you might consider are Flyball, retrieving trials, earth dog work (for terriers), sheep work and obedience.  Contact the Canine Council in your State for details.

  1. Another Dog?

People often think getting another dog is the answer to the ‘latch key canine’ problem – which may explain why multiple dog ownership is on the rise.  As often as not however buying another dog simply doubles your trouble (see ‘Get Your Dog A Dog’ Dogs’ Life May 2000).  There are several points you should consider:

  • Are you getting another dog because you want one too or just because you think it will be good for your dog?  If you don’t really want a second dog – don’t!
  • Does your dog generally like other dogs or is it more a ‘people’ dog.  Some dogs have no desire to mix with dogs.
  • Is your dog reasonably well trained including housetraining?  Second dogs learn bad habits as well as good from the resident dog.  Make certain you have a good relationship and control over your first dog before you think about getting another.
  • Even if you have two dogs it is a good idea to spend a bit of one on one time with each to make certain they both bond to you more than to one another.
  • When you leave you’ll have four big brown eyes staring at you instead of two.
  • Are you prepared for the extra work of training and exercising, grooming and feeding two dogs rather than one?
  • If you are still convinced getting a second dog is the answer it is a good idea to get one of the opposite sex and unless there is a specific reason why you would like to breed, desex them both.
  • Don’t necessarily think in matched sets – sometimes a smaller dog will make a great companion for a larger dog and may be less work and expense.
  • Buying a second dog is not an easy fix solution to the ’latch key canine’ syndrome however in many cases a second dog will enrich the lives of both the canine and human members of the family.

Wise time

Dogs can adapt to a wide range of living conditions provided they know that when you are together, they are valued and loved.  Devote a portion of your day to train and play with your dog and your time will be amply rewarded.  I call it ‘wise time’ – a time when my dogs and I learn from one another.  The dogs learn how to read me like a book, to sense how I feel and what I might do at any given moment.  I learn once again to appreciate the simple joys of life – the smell of the grass, the sun on my back and the quiet pleasure of my best friends company. Take the journey – it is well worth the effort.

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
You can also follow this and other articles at my publishing site publishing site.


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