If you’ve ever been a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, then you’re probably familiar with the very unscientific term ‘crackerdog’. That’s the only term that seems appropriate to describe how my 10 year old, Copper, was behaving last night. He would stand at the baby gate barking, we’d ask him to quiet down…He’d stop for 5 seconds and go back to barking. We tried to sit down on the couch with him…No go. Tried moving him to a different room…Barking continued. My husband and I had a heated discussion on whether he’d fed the dogs (this was later confirmed by a Kong count in the freezer). We let Copper out to potty multiple times and NOTHING seemed to stop the behavior.
Then, by a stroke of luck, I was standing in an area of the house and heard this very quiet, high pitched whining. We looked around the house, outside the house and finally determined that a smoke alarm battery was dying…A very slow and, according to Copper, a very painful death. So, replace the battery and wait. Finally, after several minutes, Copper was reassured that the sky wasn’t actually falling (Malinois’ are sure that the sky falls at least several times a day) and he settled down to eat the bully stick that we’d offered while attempting to calm down behavior that we had assumed was BMS (BMS =Bored Malinois Syndrome).
All became quiet in the house. Both dogs were happy with their respective bully sticks and there was calm once more. I should add that Penny hadn’t given two hoots about the dying smoke alarm, but those kinds of things have never bothered her.
And then I was an idiot. I was on the couch, Facebooking, clicked on one of those ‘must watch’ videos and suddenly a smoke alarm beep starting issuing forth from my phone! The Sky Was Now Most Definitely FALLING!!! Copper was up like a jackrabbit, I’m pressing the back button faster than you’d believe, but the damage was already done. He came up to me and starting crawling into my lap (no mean feat for a 65lb, 25in dog!), so I pulled him the rest of the way up and just held him until his body started relaxing. And I held him, and he was happy that his Mommy was there to protect him from the evil, treacherous sky. And then all was right again with the world. He finished his bully stick and I stayed away from random links on Facebook.
The moral of this story is this:
Just because your dog is acting like an asshat, doesn’t mean that he is an asshat.
Or, to make this more appropriate as far as dog training speak, if your dog experiences a change in behavior, then you should look to their immediate environment to see if there are any changes to the environment. Address the changes and see if the behavior returns back to baseline.
There’s a whole lot more that can be said about behavior changes, but we’ll leave that for another time.
Lisa Paul CPDT-KA KPA-CTP