A View from the Outside – Our Old Dog

Our dog is getting old. He’s a big dog and lays around a lot. When he is lying down, he stretches right out taking a lot of space. He doesn’t move as fast as he used to, so he gets in the way a lot.

When our dog was young, he would spend most of the day outside; we let him in at night. His “kennel area” was in the entryway to our house, a narrow spot where we hang our coats and store the boots. There are a couple of rugs there where the dog likes to lie down. This used to be a good arrangement because the dog was protection at night. In the daytime, when we were coming or going, the dog was up immediately because he was usually coming or going with us. But lately that picture has changed. Now the old, slow dog enjoys lying down more often than jumping up to go outside. So he gets in the way a lot.

For every simple problem, there is a complex solution and sometimes even a simple solution. Our house has a front door, which is on the street side of the house, opposite from the normal entryway leading from our driveway. We rarely use that door and visitors don’t even realize it is there. Our simple solution was to change the dog’s “kennel area” to the other doorway.

We tried to explain the new situation to the dog. We moved his favourite rug to the alternate entryway. We moved his food dish, and his water dish to the alternate entryway. We guided the dog out the front door, and back in the front door. Many times. When the dog barked at the back door, we went out and walked him around to the front door to let him in. Our wonderful smart dog, the same dog that seemed to understand English, the clever dog who narrowly missed a career as a TV hero, just didn’t get it. He always came to the back door to come in the house. So we decided to try dog language. We walked him around to the front door, barked like a dog, then opened the door to let him in. And he would go in.

There is a special relationship between dog owners and dogs who are allowed to stay in the house at night. When the dog barks at night the owner drags himself out of his place of comfort and lets the dog out. There could be many reasons the dog wants out. He might be doing his protective role reminding neighbours he is on guard (barking). He might be going for a drink of water, or he might just have to relieve himself. But for the old dog who likes to lie in the entryway, its the latter reason the owner rushes to open the door. Lately, our old dog has started barking 3 or 4 times at night. Since he is deaf, he no longer goes out to bark and prove he’s a guard dog. And since there is water at the door, he must be going to relieve himself, right? So I let him out. Then I have to wait for his bark to come in. Then I walk him around to his kennel side and let him in. So I spy on him and find out he is going for a drink. Who is training who?!

Posted in A View from the Outside, February 2012

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