A care home dog? Pip is just that. He doesn’t have an ‘owner’ as such but he belongs to the home. His own care is shared by several members of staff.
Little dog takes the lift
The eight-month-old Cavapoo is absolutely gorgeous; He is hilarious also.
When he feels like going upstairs, he waits for the lift to open on the ground floor he steps in, lies down in the corner and waits until someone calls it up to the first floor.
Up there he visits many residents. They love it and make a big fuss of him. There may well be food to be scavenged or sneaked treats.
He also goes up there for something else. Someone may take him into the garden to toilet. They wait and wait. Nothing. He then will come in, take the lift to the first floor and quietly poo up there!
Adolescent Pip has recently taken to marking around the place too.
No boundaries or restrictions.
With so few boundaries either physically or from a behaviour point of view since he arrived as a little puppy, Pip is surprisingly well-adjusted. He must be one of the best socialised dogs in the land! He is adored like a pop idol but that’s not without consequences.
The other behaviours which are becoming increasingly unacceptable are barking at people and then grabbing trousers or sleeves of some of the staff.
Seeing just how they fuss him and excite him, it’s not hard to see what is happening. Some wind him up wildly as they walk in the door. He barks for attention – and gets it. If by chance someone is unable to obey him, he will leap at their sleeves or grab their trousers. This only happens with the people who stir him up the most.
A calmer dog would be unlikely to do these things. Very possibly even the indoor pooping may be affected by his constantly raised arousal levels. Maybe the marking also. Run of the big building is a lot of space for him to maintain as his territory!
The care home dog’s circle of guardians
I met with about seven people most responsible for looking after their little care home dog. Most were members of staff and there was one resident who helps to walk him.
Though they can’t ‘train’ all the residents and visitors, if they themselves can manage to behave in a different way and keep him calmer he should become more ‘grounded’.
For the reason of grounding I feel he needs a physical base and some routine. He could be safely enclosed at night time – shut in the reception area where he already has a bed and where he is fed. Everything logistically is tricky with so many people including shifts of carers coming and going.
Pip’s ‘circle’ of close people now must ignore his barking for attention if they want it to stop. Best would be to pre-empt it by giving him something better to do in advance. If the manager is having a meeting in the office, Pip will scratch the door and bark to be let in, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Why not get a Kong, ready waiting in the freezer with something tasty inside, and give that to him in another room before the meeting starts?
Calmer greetings are essential – if only possible from his most involved humans. It’s not like one or two people coming home after a day at work saying hello and getting him excited. It’s many people – and it’s all day long.
Several in particular wind him up to a state of wild excitement. They may scoop him up or roll around with him. Then when he reacts by getting rough he gets told ‘No!’. This must be very confusing for him. Toning down greetings and rough and tumble, hands-on play, helping him to keep calmer, is actually a lot kinder.
Pip has a great life. He gets plenty of time outside keeping the gardener company until he gets put back indoors for digging up the plants or digging holes. He gets daily walks in a nearby wood.
Working for his food
The little dog’s behaviour would benefit from more in the way of calming enrichment activities including foraging and hunting.
He can now work for his food. It can be in a Kong or a treat ball. They can scatter it over the grass.
Something interesting happened a short while before I left. We were all sitting chatting in the reception area with Pip asleep at our feet. A male carer arrived. Someone said this man always makes Pip very excited. As if on cue, Pip saw him, ran to him and immediately flew at his arm, grabbing his jacket.
This was a very useful and clear demonstration of the way that arousal, caused by his humans, results in the very behaviour that they are looking to eradicate.
To start with, dear little care home dog Pip is sure to get worse. He will try harder and go on for longer when his barking for some sort of attention fails to succeed as it always has in the past.
With more effort and consistency with the outside toilet trips and stopping him from sneaking upstairs until he has done his business, the indoor pooping should stop. Everyone involved with him needs to be on the case!
‘The tactile magic of petting dogs’
The benefits to health of petting a dog are well documented. Here is a nice quote from The Daily Puppy: ‘In case lowering blood pressure isn’t enough, the tactile magic of petting dogs — whether yours or someone else’s–offers other health benefits associated with high blood pressure. For example, loneliness, depression and other stress-related disorders, all of which can lead to elevated blood pressure, can be eased just by touching or petting a canine companion. Just as the hormone serotonin is raised and makes a person feel relaxed, the hormone cortisol is lowered and reduces stress’.
What a great asset Pip is to that home.
I hope for many years to come the little care home dog will continue to take the lift and visit the upstairs residents, enriching their lives, making the people smile who live there, work there and visit.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pip because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)