I am reading a trade journal where I am learning about Brambell’s Five Freedoms, which was a program that originated in Great Britain to ascertain the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. Later on, the British government established the Farm Animal Welfare Council in efforts to define the “freedoms”. The freedoms addressed are:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Injury and Disease
- Freedom to express Normal (for the breed) behaviors
- Freedom from fear and distress
Wow! Imagine if we would actually treat all animals based on this model! For one, I would be without a job – but come to think of it, it would be worth it if animals all around lived better lives free of distress and trauma.
Just the other night we had a tremendous rainstorm. This time I could hear the thunder “just outside my window” with thunderclaps accompanying the torrential rains we were experiencing.
Suddenly we lost power! Boom both dogs nestled close to me. I was not expecting to lose power so I had not previously secured a flashlight. Now totally in the dark without knowing how long it would take for the power to come back (my home literally does not function without electricity- no lights, internet, cooking, or water). I pictured the lives of so many dogs that are left day after day with nothing to do – just sitting or lying idle, just waiting for something to happen. And just like me, not knowing how long I would have to wait with nothing to do and no creature comforts. My heart sank.
So this is what they probably go through?
This brings me for the enormous need for mentally and physically stimulating our dogs ON A DAILY BASIS people!
The idea connects nicely with reference to Brambell’s model of the Five Freedoms…“ability to perform natural behaviors”. Of course, many times our dogs’ natural behaviors are a reason for our concern and our disapproval. However, this should not mean that our dogs should live without having these basic needs met.
Of course, I have also heard of clients of mine that ensure that their pup (s) get ample mental and physical stimulation and it appears that at times, the scale tips way over the other end… client’s whose dogs run 5 miles daily! Dogs who are involved- just like many young kids these days, in a slew of activities or classes with little time for downtime and rest.
So how is one to know what our dog’s particular needs are? These needs will vary depending on the age of the dog, the size, breed, living situation, weather, and the like. I think that we first need to acknowledge that dogs are individuals and as such their needs are also individuals. But there are a few rules of thumb that anyone can follow to ensure their dog is living an enriched life as a result of having its needs met. Here are some of my observations and rules of thumb.
Every day my dogs get at least one mental outlet and a physical outlet in the am as well as in the pm. This might vary depending on the season and the weather but for the most part, I try to capitalize and take care of their needs when the temperature is just right for them. In essence, dogs are most active in the early hrs. and also as the sun begins to set- they are crepuscular creatures. So that is Tip #1.
The rest of the day, my dogs are free to snooze wherever they choose to do so. Their locations vary throughout the day, but I can see a pattern of likes and dislikes in both of them.
There is something soothing for me when I see my dogs happily napping while I am frantically getting ready for my next training or working at home. It makes me feel that I am doing something good for them – such as finding a balance between keeping them engaged with ample time to just relax and refresh.
Tip #2: I rotate the activities depending on my own schedule and the intensity of them. For example, we play Frisbee twice a week- at the very most three times a week. Not daily and not for long. Frisbee is a very intense activity and requires that I am watchful to avoid too much exertion (remember the dogs that run 5 miles?) Or injury.
Other days, Deuce and I go sheepherding and Rio gets an off-leash romp. We also take trips to Santa Fe for on-leash walks and lots of smells and new places to visit. Including department stores (a big hit for my dogs) and coffee shops. Surprisingly so both dogs come home exhausted after the leash walks. Visiting different places and having new experiences are the perfect “break” from strenuous activity and a great dose of mental stimulation.
What I have found is that because I take care of my dog’s needs I seldom experience any behavioral problem with them. Truly. It is not so much because I am a trainer and trainer’s dogs are perfect and… blah, blah, blah, that my dogs are so “problem-free” it is in fact because their dog needs are met daily, so they do not need to invent new doggie-games of the “unacceptable kind” to fill endless hrs. of boredom, solitude or having too much pent-up physical energy.