"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Big Dog Too Big to Live in the House?

– Posted in: Aggression, Behavior Problems, Columns

I need advice about a big dog. First he’s not mine. He’s a 125 lb German Shepherd. The issue I have is with the dog’s environment. Due to his size he has been cast out of the house. When not out the back he is brought inside to the unfinished basement. (He isn’t allowed into the living area because his claws are marking the new wood floor.) I do understand this however I see him in a much bigger house where he is allowed to just hang with his family.

I think he needs interaction with people. He’s not getting enough in my opinion. I suggested that the dog be placed elsewhere, but the owner says he’s fine, and not an issue.

Your thoughts when you have a moment please. Thank you very much,

C.N.

Dear C.N.

The argument I most often hear regarding dogs in back yards is they’re there for fresh air and exercise. As a rule I think unsupervised time in a yard is very bad for dogs. I’ve found that the main reason that dogs spend time in yards is because they’re behaving like idiots in the house due to poor training and no real exercise.

If we were to be perfectly honest we’d have to admit; in the city at least, the air is “fresher” indoors then it is outdoors and exercise is at least a half hour of moving about with an elevated heart rate. It has not been my experience that dogs madly run about for ½ hour when in a yard. So the exercise argument doesn’t fly. When young and left unsupervised in a yard even for a short period of time they’re more likely to learn to chew on garden furniture and shrubs and dig holes. At any age if they run at all, they stop before meaningful exercise occurs. Worse still, when they sense activity outside of the fenced area it tickles their territorial instincts and while it may not be obvious in the beginning over time often leads to territorial aggression which might just be barking at every little thing or worse – biting. It almost always leads to a dog that is darned hard to walk once it makes it out into what is the real playground – the walk environment.

I’ve always been puzzled by the rescues and dog breeders that denied people a dog if they didn’t have a fenced yard. Surely they don’t believe that a significant number of people with unfenced or no yards would just open the door and send the dog out to take its chances. I’ll bet there are fewer people that naïve then there are people that have their dogs discover an unlatched gate or find a way to escape their yard. Lifestyle not fenced acreage is the only factor that has significance if we actually have the dog’s well being in mind.

Sufficient exercise helps keep a dog calm in the house and real balanced training will lead to the manners that cut down on the wear and tear on the floor. Keep his nails properly trimmed and if further floor protection is required, train him to wear dog boots.

The truth is that dogs like spending time around their owners. Packs work together and play together. They don’t take vacations from each other.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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