The Dog’s Point of View
I had a call the other day from a woman who was concerned because her dog, a terrier mix, never wanted to spend any time outside. She has a nice big fenced backyard, but within five minutes of the dog’s going outside he was barking and scratching at the door to come back inside.
As we talked the reasons her dog didn’t want to spend time outside became clear. I asked if her dog would stay outside if she stayed out with him. She told me he would but he would just stay near her. He didn’t run around the yard or play.
I asked what kind of toys he had to play with in the yard. The woman admitted that she didn’t really have any toys that she left outside. She would take a ball out occasionally but there really wasn’t much for the dog to do out there by himself.
I then asked if there was food and water outside for her dog. Again her reply was no. The food and water were inside the house. Then I asked if there was shelter of any kind for the dog outside if he wanted to get out of the elements. Once again her answer was no
If I were her dog, I would probably be trying to get back in the house too. There was no shelter, no food, no water and no entertainment. In other words there was no incentive for the dog to want to be out in the backyard, especially if there was no one else there.
When trying to get to the cause of problems it helps to look at things from the dog’s point of view. If we only provide the elements they know are necessary for survival in one place, either inside or out, that’s where our dogs will want to be. If we give our dogs things to keep themselves entertained and occupied, provide shelter and sustenance both inside and out, we’ll have a better chance of our dogs wanting to spend time both inside and out.
The food, water and shelter are all pretty self explanatory, but what about entertainment? That can be a little trickier as every dog is different. You might have to experiment with various things to find the right combination.
Some dogs like to dig. They might like digging pits with toys or bones buried in them. Some dogs like trying to catch things. A toy hanging from a tree with a bungee rope may be fun. A breeze will put the toy in motion and the bungee will simulate a tug-of-war type interaction.
Try scatter feeding. Take a handful of food and toss it in the yard. Dogs are natural foragers. In the wild they search for food. Let them use their noses to search for food. Most dogs love that.
Unfortunately our Rover’s favorite outside activity is plopping down in mud puddles. We set up a wading pool for him. He loves splashing in it and he also loves the interaction of getting cleaned off and towel dried when it’s time to come in.
If you want your dog to be comfortable and happy spending time apart from you, look at things from his point of view and try to provide for all of his needs. When you do he’ll be happy and we all know what happy dogs lead to… Happy Families!
Dog Behavioral Therapist, Master Trainer