Friday, April 11, 2014

Windows can offer dogs beneficial outlet, but for others they are a behavioral burden

There's a neighborhood I walk a client in on occasion that boasts many homes with canine family members, and by and large, it's pleasurable and safe to walk in for both me and my charge, a young dachshund.

There is one house that I avoid walking directly past without fail and for good reason: a potentially dangerous situation looms every time.

Upon passing the home, I witness a sight that I see often on my travels (just one reason that I don't walk distracted by my phone or otherwise), and it always gives me pause.

An adult German shepherd inside the home, gustily plants their body atop the back of the couch that is situated in front of a single-pane picture window, growling, vocalizing, clearly not able to control them self at the mere sight of my client and I making our way down the sidewalk. A less-out-of-control golden retriever always joins in within seconds and most definitely seems to follow the lead of their housemate.

Unfortunately the location of my client's home necessitates the need to go past this house, so I mindfully do so, but from a safer distance across the street.

Thankfully even now, that seemingly sturdy window keeps a dicey situation from escalating to one that would have an unfavorable outcome.

I often wonder how many times a day that the poor dog engages in that level of arousal at that window, and what other behaviors the dog might be exhibiting that could be easily addressed. Then, I think about all of the other times in a given month when I see this kind of thing happen in my travels.

Windows are a wonderful way to offer a view of what's happening outside for pets, but for some, they only show potential threats and are burdensome to them.

Thankfully, there are simple changes that can be implemented to help dogs like this avoid the stimuli that trigger these kinds of behaviors, so let's start with one obvious source — the visual type.

Usually a combination of things, like moving furniture away from windows, closing blinds or drapes or using rice paper film on the lower-half or the entire window to obscure the view (this still allows light to stream in). The latter comes in different finishes and may affix by clinging to the window or may use an adhesive.

If that all isn't enough, blocking access to rooms with large windows entirely may be necessary.

Audible triggers often accompany the behavior, so keeping a radio on or using a white noise machine to buffer any noises from outside is helpful.

Positive reinforcement training goes hand-in-hand with these efforts, and for more on that, click here.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer -- most recently as a contributor on MLive -- and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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