My empty nest dogs are acting strangely 1



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A strange thing has happened here. Let me first say that we are dog people. We’ve had dogs for about 30 years in our family. Once we became empty nesters we decided to get two dogs instead of one.

Yes, they are totally spoilt. They remain outside during the day, then come in at night. They have use of the back verandah during the day. They have their own bedroom but have crates in there as left to their own devices will destroy everything.

A few weeks ago I thought that when my husband retires in July we will have to acquire further training with them as they have become very demanding. We have four year old Jake the Airedale and four and a half year old Smiles the Lakeland terrier.

A typical night in this house would be them bounding in – no manners, just push past me with Smiles attacking Jake to be first in. I would then tell Jake to sit on his mat and give him a treat which he inhales, so that when Smiles is on her mat he is finished. I then tether Smiles to the leg of the coffee table go back to Jake and tether him to a large leg of furniture to keep him away from her treat. Then give him another treat to keep him quiet, give Smiles another treat because even though she hasn’t started hers, as she only wants to tease Jake with it, she has noticed he has another.

I then settle down to watch TV, but Jake has finished all his and is barking for more. So I give him one that will require a lot of chewing. Smiles is watching television and an ad comes on with a cat or dog or some other animal. She goes off her head barking at the animal on the TV and almost chokes herself trying to get to it. So we sit there trying to skip channels so there are no animals for her to attack. Jake in the meantime just chews on his treat.

Once Smiles has finished her treat, in between wanting to kill those animals that come onto the TV she wants to go outside for a drink of water. Jake remains inside just in case there are more treats coming his way.  Smiles decides she wants to play games outside and won’t come back in. So I leave her out there and of course as soon as I sit down she starts to howl to come back in, but wants to play catch me if you can when I try to bring her in.

Bed time and I take them outside one at a time to toilet before going into their crates. Jake wants to lay on the grass so I have to wait for ages for him but can always bribe him with a treat.  Smiles is happy to come in and go to her crate. Five minutes after they are bedded the whimpering and barking starts. If it isn’t Jake (which it usually is) it is Smiles. I’m sure they just want to send us mad. So I take them out for one last drink/wee. At around midnight Jake starts again. However they do sleep then until the morning.

We decided to trial them on a recent eight day trip around inland NSW. We were unsure if we would be going at one stage as Jake got extremely ill and was on a drip at the vets until the day before we left.  They travelled well in the car.  We stayed in pet friendly accommodation. Every night they just lay at our feet and happily went into the fold up crates we have for them. Animals came onto the TV and Smiles ignored them. There was no barking, there was no getting up.

We thought it would all change when we got home. No, they are quite happy with just one treat at night and happily go off to bed and sleep the whole night. Smiles sees animals on TV and ignores them. I’m not sure what we did, but life is so much easier now.

Share your thoughts below.

Jeanette Southam

  1. They probably enjoyed being with you the whole time on the trip, plus, it would have been novel for them. I am guessing that maybe you’re expectations of their behaviour (settling down, not barking) would have been greater while they were travelling? Sometimes this is all it takes. Our 2 year old Golden Retriever loves doing long day trips with us and i can never fault her behaviour when out and about. She can be annoying with wanting to play often when inside for the evening, but has learnt that she will soon be outside again if she doesn’t settle down (paired with “do you want to stay outside?”, she has learnt what pushing the boundaries would result in). I take her to obedience training every Sunday, which teaches me to be a better trainer, improves our bond, improves her responses to my requests (staying longer in her place, returning more reliably when called), gives her some fun with agility and a chance to socialise with dogs she likes.

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