Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baby + Puppy = Barking Mad!

I met a couple in the park with a newly born baby and an 8 month mixed breed puppy.
We got onto the subject of barking.

My beagles are driving me mad because they are wired to be extremely vocal when they play and hunt. Dogs are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. I try to walk them as often as possible but they usually return even more hyped up and more noisy. It's the endorphins still rushing around their system says my behaviourist. They are not only driving me mad but my neighbours as well.

The other night the tone of the barking changed from "play" to a "watch dog" bark in the garden. When I went out to investigate I realised my puppies were barking at a disembodied voice shouting from the other side of the fence:"Shut up! shut up!"
This voice also screams at the hadeda birds in my tree who start squawking at sparrows. Of course now every time my dogs pass that part of the garden they give a bark just in case the barker on the other side of the fence wants to play. I did go to bed that night wondering if I was going to have to uproot my whole lifestyle and move to the country.

Back to the couple in the park who said that since their baby had been born, their puppy had started barking "at ghosts".
Of course his hearing is much sharper than humans so he is probably barking at something and using it as an excuse to get attention from his owners who were now focused on their new child (Negative attention is better than no attention at all).

The young mother, looking pale and stressed, said it was driving her mad because he kept waking the baby just as she had managed to get the child to sleep. On top of this, she was feeling so guilty because her emotional state was driving her to scream or smack him. She felt completely unable to cope with her newborn and her dog's constant barking during the day.

They have adopted an option that I think many stressed, pressurised urban dwellers who can't cope with the clash between the demands of a 21st century life style and the needs of a dog bred to work, are also adopting. Puppy and Adult dog day care. On offer are also services such as Specialised dog/cat day care for animals requiring special medical attention and Exercising where someone will take your dog for a walk for a fee.

Apparently the couple's dog is at day care from 9.00am and picked up at 3.30pm in a state of complete exhaustion. This is how this couple has temporarily solved the dilemma of being unable to cope with the needs of their dog and a baby. But just as you would investigate a day care centre for your child, I would investigate these animal day care services. Make sure your dog is not ending up in a worse situation than at home.

Whew, we really need to know what we are taking on when we decide to have pets. Too often their "normal" behaviour is labeled "misbehaviour" because it just doesn't fit in with our lifestyles.
The challenge is to find the balance between our needs and our dog's needs.

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