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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hey Mom! Cut the Apron Strings!

My friend Charlotte is concerned that her rescued Aussie, Sammy, is acting so aggressive toward "everything" they pass while he's in the car.

"He goes ballistic around other dogs, especially," she said. "He just doesn't have good manners. And he's the same with cows, birds, people on bicycles, whatever moves!"

Sammy lives a sheltered existence, still tied to Charlotte's very short apron strings. He lives what most would consider a happy, ideal life, with plenty of supervision, a warm house to sleep in, good food, lots of affection, and lots of time to run around their acreage out in the woods...although he prefers to stay close to Mama (Charlotte) and rarely wanders out of her sight.

What Sammy needs, I suggested, is a good, hard play session with some other dogs, WITHOUT Charlotte around! That would do more to calm him down than anything. Let him be a kid on the playground, with his peers and without parents looking over his shoulder. Charlotte is afraid he'll either start a fight or get hurt in a fight. Nothing could be farther from the truth, although I've yet to convince her of that. I've known hundreds of Sammies and watched them progress as social creatures once their parents allowed them to be dogs. Unfortunately, I've also seen many a "neurotic" dog--and frequently they're high-strung, emotionally needy dogs like Sammy--who do not progress because they are held back, coddled, and over-protected. They never learn to get along with other dogs and to get that excitement out of their systems. Thus, the barking and ballistic behavior when Sammy is riding in a car.
If Charlotte would relax and just let Sammy be a dog with other dogs, he would get much of that excitement out of his system. Doggy Day Care is great for this! It fills a big void for many dogs, since it provides them "pack time" and teaches them how to get along with their peers. Years before I started offering Doggy Day Care in Yakima, I found the idea of dumping one's dog off at a day-kennel to be a disgustingly lazy way to "own" a dog. NO MORE!! Doggy Day Care is a tremendous help to a dog's social, mental, and emotional development. The first day is scarier for the "moms" than it is for the dogs. But most dogs learn to love it and can't wait to come back and play with their friends. They actually enjoy a break from Mom, and a chance to be a dog among dogs. And they get that excitement out of their systems, which alleviates the barking, frantic behavior in your car.

Overprotective parents can drive kids (two-legged and four-legged) nuts. My advice to dogmoms on this Mothers Day is to loosen up, relax, and let your "dogkids" jump into the pool. No one's going to let them drown. But it's one great way for them to learn how to swim.
Photo above: Rhonda and Mike Taylor's three Labs, all Doggy Day Care participants and all sociable!

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