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  • Confusing our dogs

    Dogs are creatures of habit, as much as us humans are. They get comfort from consistency so, when change happens, they can become confused and, depending on the change, potentially stressed. 

    In our household, Finn sleeps in a crate in our bedroom. However, with the sky-high temperatures we’ve been having recently, we have taken to sleeping in our basement which is cooler and more amenable to sleep. So as not to disrupt his sleeping arrangements any more than we had to, we relocated his crate to the basement as well. And here’s where his confusion kicks in. Even though he’s aware of sleeping in the basement, he will still make a beeline for the bedroom each night when he’s ready to go to bed as, in his mind, that’s where he sleeps. Once we remind him that his crate is now in the basement, he’s as happy as a clam and bounds down the stairs ready for a good night’s sleep.

    Meal times can be interesting. Have you ever noticed that you can practically set your watch when dogs start to hint that they need feeding? Their body clock is finely tuned to know when food should be served, whether it be in the summer or the winter. Whether there’s more light or less light doesn’t seem to play a part in their eating routine. Change the schedule and you have one confused dog! However, as a dog owner, try not to get sucked into too much time precision with feeding times. Dogs don’t need to be fed at a precise time every day. Leave yourself a reasonable feeding window and you’ll have a more relaxed life.

    Dogs are social animals. They want to be part of our “pack”, so they can become confused and frustrated when we leave them alone for long periods or create “dog-free” zones at home. Particularly when they first join your family, dogs need reassurance that you will return to be with them. Over time, and assuming the dog feels comfortable in your home environment, they will adapt and feel reassured that your leaving home in the morning is not the last time they will ever see you.

    Dogs live in an olfactory world, while ours is chiefly visual. So, they must wonder what’s going on sometimes when we change our smell through cosmetics, bathing, sickness or contact with other animals. I find it interesting that when I return home from holding a dog assessment session for our therapy dog program, the first thing Finn does is to give me a thorough sniff. I have the smell of other dogs on my jeans and he wants to know “chapter and verse’ what dogs I have been in contact with. 

    One area that new dog owners need to appreciate sooner rather than later is that dogs are opportunists. Particularly when it comes to food, dogs do not often wait for permission to consume if an opportunity presents itself. Their logic is that it must be ok to eat the food on, say, the counter because, if it wasn’t ok, the food would not be reachable. Many a time over the years has a pizza or loaf of bread “gone missing” because we weren’t thinking through the consequences of leaving food unattended. Dogs’ confusion is simply because they think differently than us.

    So often confusion, either in our mind or the mind of your dog, can be avoided if you look at the world through a dog’s lens. Not only does this approach help but it can be a very interesting experience, through which we can better understand the psyche of our furry friends.