Sunday, September 28, 2014

My dog Max

I can't very likely have a blog about domesticity without mentioning my dog, Max.  He's a pure bred Siberian Husky and our relationship has been slow to develop. 

As a puppy, SR took charge of him and he was playful and loving and needed a lot of time and attention and he got it.  As he got a little older, I admit he didn't quite get as much attention as he needed.

We have tried different ways of housing him, but we simply cannot let him roam the house.  He's just simply too destructive.  He's almost 2 and while I think we could have trained him much better- we had struggles.

1) The kids are terrified of him.  It's ridiculous because there's nothing very scary about this dog.  He's happy and hyper.  He's also very rambunctious and very large.  He is almost 25 from shoulder to paws, which makes for a tall dog. He's also very loud.  His I'm so happy to see you bark is also the loudest bark he has.  The 10 year old has a problem with loud noises, so he gets panicky whenever Max is around and Max seems a little uncomfortable around him too.  As a puppy, he would RUN from Max.  And of course Max, thinking he wants to play, would chase him.  It was stressful for everyone.  The 10 year old has anxiety and sensory issues so I can somewhat understand his fear.  He stays clear of Max with the exception of occasionally giving him treats when he's crated. 

The 12 year old is afraid for no real reason, because he isn't afraid of all dogs.  Just Max.  The 7 year old likes to pet Max after his walks, when he's mostly tired- but even now we are teaching him not to make jerky movements or come at him with his hand way high over his head because he things there's treats there and he tries to jump up.   Also I think because the other boys are afraid of him, he worries that there is a REASON to be afraid.

I don't try to force the dogs on the kids.  Max senses their hesitance and his overwhelming need to make them love him makes him a little overbearing which seems to frighten them even more. 

2) Our fences in the backyard are not secure.  We have allowed him to be outside and run in our rather large backyard for hours at a time, which he loves.  However, he's a digger.  He's not a jumper, but he loves to dig.  Once he dug out under the fence, he won't stop trying to do that.  Also he the fence between us and our neighbors is weak- so it's just a matter of time before he jumps on it and the whole thing falls over. 

We are renters and replacing the fence is not exactly in our budget.  We may be able to invest in some electric fencing that will keep him clear of the actual fence, but for as large as our backyard is, that's a large investment.  I did a lot of research on electric fencing.  No, it's not the same strength as they use for cattle or horses.  Also, huskies are really smart and it will only take a few mild zaps on his chest or on top of his nose, if he is trying to crawl under, for him to get the hint.   

3) We have a large kennel for him outside, but our neighborhood gets ticks.  We had a really bad tick infestation last year that managed to get EVERYWHERE in the house.  We regularly treat the animals, and the yard- but they still manage to be around.  Even if the don't bite on him, he can still bring them in the house.

Luckily, he really does love his crate.  I have let him out in the house a few times when the kids aren't home and he just runs right back to the crate and lays down.  I think he just feels safer in there.  He goes out several times a day, unfortunately on the leash now- because he runs right for the fence and starts digging.  It's amazing how fast that dog can dig JUST enough space to wiggle under the fence. 

Have you ever tried chasing after a dog that can run upwards of 30 mph?  It's NOT fun.  The best we can do is follow him until he gets interested in something long enough that we can nab him.  I once chased him down an entire block.  Every time getting close enough just to have him run to the next house. 

What to do?

So he is crated most of the time.  I feel bad about it, but he doesn't complain about it.  He is glad to let you know when he wants attention and doesn't mess in his crate.  I have considered that we extend and/or his kennel and move it to the concreted area of our patio so he's not in the grass with the ticks, he can really move around and he's not inside all day.  However, I think he would rather be crated and inside with us, than outside and alone.  He really does seem happier inside.  He gets our attention throughout the day.  He gets taken out several times a day with lots of water, snacks and attention- but unless he's going on a walk, he's not really all that interested in being outside.  As soon as he's done with his business he wants right back in the house and heads for the crate before I can get his leash off.  He will pull me back towards the house, "ok mom- I've had enough of this outdoors stuff- lets go back inside."

Also we have discussed using bricks to line the bottom of the fencing between our neighbors yard and ours- and also the one he digs under to escape.  Just so we can let him outback to run several times a day.  If we are with him, he is not going to run off because he prefers to be in our presence than NOT.  Now that the weather is cooling, we can actually do some work outside without melting in the heat.  I also think he will enjoy being outside more.  The weather is cooling, thank dog!  I think this is the next project. 

Also we are going to move his crate into the office.  This is where SR spends most of the day- so at least Max is right there with him and not alone.  This will hopefully lead to him learning to be out of the crate without wreaking havoc.  Maybe it will calm him some and hopefully as he gets older (and neutered) he will be able to move about the house without the kids having a fit.  I've had him loose in the house before- after about 20-30 minutes, he does chill out.  However, what a husky can destroy in 2 minutes in a new environment is impressive.  30 minutes is epic.

Over the past several months, I have learned to love this big dumb dog.  I admit I was skeptical, as I have said many times in the past that this was not the type dog I wanted.  However, spending time with him- he has learned to give me some respect.  Teaching him things has made for a good relationship with him and I look forward to coming home, taking him outside for a bit and then our long nightly walks.  He comes in happy and content.

I would love to have a dog that will lay with me on the bed or curl  up at my feet, but I'm just not sure he will ever be that dog.  Maybe in a few more years, but for now- this is the best we can do for him. 

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