Coping with living with your personal trainer
November 7, 2006 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Ok so you've got this highly energetic girlfriend who likes to play lots of physical games and distracts you from your work. You love having her around but she knows all your buttons and sometimes you just need to focus. You just want to distract her away from you for a couple of hours. Your friends say she is just an annoying bitch..... which is *literally* true being canine....

.... but you don't believe in doggy daycare, or keeping her separate from you. You could leave the house but that's somewhat inconvenient. Long life kong recipes? A toy whose fun evolves over time so she never gets bored? Doggy audio distraction? Some sort of natural doggy relaxant? Some game you could play without concentrating? Other ideas?
posted by vizsla to Pets & Animals (22 answers total)
Have you tried bully sticks, aka stretched, dried, and smoked bull penises? They stank something terrible, but dogs love 'em and a big'un will last even a solid chewer an hour or two.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2006

Try getting a hollow bone and filling the area formerly occupied by marrow with peanut butter. If your dog is food motivated, she will stay busy for days.

Some people say you can do the same with spray can cheese, but that stuff is kinda scary.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. Yes she is very food-motivated and a powerful chewer. Ideally I could use this every day or thereabouts so I don't know about giving her a bone that often? Second dog is an option but not just yet.
posted by vizsla at 4:58 PM on November 7, 2006

When you say "keeping her separate" I assume you mean that you refuse to have her gated off into another room or crated? What would she do if you did? Are you home all day?

Also, how much exercise does she get a day? (And what breed/age?)
posted by hindmost at 5:02 PM on November 7, 2006

They make dog toys that look like blue cubes with holes on each surface. You fill it with food, and the dog knocks it around and food falls out little by little. I believe you can adjust it to make the food fall out easily or make it a little tougher. My mom's high-energy year-old dog loved the thing. My mom used it every day, and put the dog's kibble in it instead of treats to keep weight off her.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:02 PM on November 7, 2006

I've had a lot of luck with 'doping' my kongs. Specifically what I do is put a little bit of low-fat peanut butter on the inside, then I jam a pair of dry biscuits in. (I found some biscuits that are the perfect size, in bulk from a local farm shop.)

Depending on how proficient your doggy girl is, it can take up to 20 minutes to completely clear the toy. Which is why I bought 2. Perfect for watching a half hour long TV show without getting stomped all over. (On a related note, my Australian cattle dog has very strong jaws, but never actually did any real damage to the red ones. Then we got a rat terrier and his teeth are sharp enough to actually slice through them in a couple of days. We have switched over to the black kongs which seem tougher. YMMV)

Other ideas; dog park. Let her run with the other dogs. Every time we take our dogs there, they sleep like the dead for the rest of the day.

Laser pointer. Just kick back and let her tear ass through the house chasing the elusive red dot.

Work on tricks. We discovered that one of the reasons our cattle dog was so hyper was that she was not getting enough pack leader discipline. Now she can sit, stay, play dead, roll over, stand, wave, demonstrate her stinkyness (she covers her nose), and shake. She is much calmer now as well.

I would caution you about getting the dog a playmate. We did just that and sure, they tire each other out, but the entire house is a battle field. Usually you will end up being 'goal' for one dog or the other, so when the war isn't going their way, your lap (at high speed) will become their safe haven. You may want to work on socializing your girl (see dog park suggestion above) before you commit to having another mouth to feed.
posted by quin at 5:04 PM on November 7, 2006

Response by poster: hindmost : She's a vizsla. Yes I am home most of each day. If I put her in another room she would probably howl for a while - but I am not sure I could do that every day. Yes I'm a doggy wimp - but vizsla psychology is unique - and I kind of like what we have going between us at the moment. Don't want to mess that up.
posted by vizsla at 5:06 PM on November 7, 2006

Doggy treadmill?
posted by necessitas at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2006

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Get up a little earlier and take her on a 1 hour walk in the morning. And then to a dog park or on another walk in the late afternoon/evening.

And then try peanut butter filled kongs and bull penises.
posted by MasonDixon at 5:20 PM on November 7, 2006

More exercise. More training. No reason she can't be with you, but teach her what "settle" means. Nothing will work without adequate exercise, however, and given her breed, that's a lot.
posted by biscotti at 5:21 PM on November 7, 2006

Quick aside: I've heard several people including an animal behaviorialist say that laser pointers are not so great for some dogs because they can never catch the floating dot and fulfill their prey drive. It can lead to immense frustration which develops into a sort of mania and a fascination with chasing all manner of light and shadow obsessively. Just something to keep in mind, if your dog has a high prey drive or is particularly stubborn and persistent.

Definitely work on more training which will help reinforce the bond you have together. One of the things you can work on is instituting time outs during play time. Stop in the middle of play and get her to sit and down for a second, then resume the fun. Gradually increase the time you do this. It will be hard at first but she'll soon increase her self control and allow you to ask her to settle down if she's agitated or excited. (This is not just good for you, but also very huge for her own mental health.)

Another thing that you can do is literally turn away from her when you need to work. Turn your face and shoulders away from her and ignore her studiously. No eye contact, gently remove her paws if she jumps up, just keep your back to her. It will be less than a minute before she gets that you're busy and will do her own thing. It won't change her opinion of you or make her resent you, it's just a clear way of asking her to leave you alone for a little bit.
posted by hindmost at 5:26 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

You could train her to drop. My dog is pretty boisterous but if she's in the same room as me, I can make her drop on her mat and stay there. She seems happy enough just sitting next to me while I stare at the computer, and generally nods off after a short while.

Then.... PLAYTIME!
posted by tomble at 5:34 PM on November 7, 2006

I don't know if this would be an option for your dog's breed, but we got a kitten and he and the dog play all the time and keep each other company. If you're already taking care of a dog, a kitten isn't much extra work.
posted by gokart4xmas at 5:42 PM on November 7, 2006

hindmost : Quick aside: I've heard several people including an animal behaviorialist say that laser pointers are not so great for some dogs because they can never catch the floating dot and fulfill their prey drive.

I was not aware of any behaviorialist opinions on the subject, but I came to a similar conclusion by feeling bad at how sad my dog seemed to become when she couldn't get that dot. I started having it suddenly land on a treat that I surreptitiously dropped when the dog is off chasing. I always felt better when she thought she caught it.
posted by quin at 5:56 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was not aware of any behaviorialist opinions on the subject, but I came to a similar conclusion by feeling bad at how sad my dog seemed to become when she couldn't get that dot. I started having it suddenly land on a treat that I surreptitiously dropped when the dog is off chasing. I always felt better when she thought she caught it.

Ha! I, too, came up with that idea. It seemed pretty pointless (heh) to chase the dot and not get anything out of it. Great minds, and all that.
posted by Savannah at 6:19 PM on November 7, 2006

My Patterdale comes to work with me and is with me all day. We have a general routine - she comes in, says hello to everyone and has a treat, then has some breakfast, go outside to poop, and then it's "Mommy Work Time". She's in my office most of the day, and she's got about 10 stuffed toys, a bunch of bones, and her Kong.

I taught her "go lay down" by turning away from her and not letting her engage me (like hindmost suggested). If she needs me (food, water, trip outside) she will persist, but she's really good about listening for the most part. It doesn't upset her, she just goes and finds something else to occupy herself.
posted by KAS at 6:23 PM on November 7, 2006

Viszlas need a lot of exercise. We had one and she would run several miles a day chasing my dad around his farm - it was the only way she could burn off enough energy without my mom dropping dead from throwing her tennis ball all day and night.

I have a friend that adopted a small, relatively hyper dog for his Viszla and that seems to fixed a lot of the behavioral problems they were having. They wrestle and almost completely tire each other before his kids get home from school and join in the fun. They can now eat dinner in peace and sleep throughout the night without midnight pouncings.
posted by blackkar at 6:47 PM on November 7, 2006

we have a 1 1/2 yr female viszla who we crate trained as soon as we got home. In the last 6 months or so we have let her stay out of the crate longer and longer. We both are home - overlapping or individually - for most of the day. She likes a good sun spot in the a.m. to sleep, a good run around the park or a walk a couple times a day, and a trip to the dog bakery every once in a while. We tried bullies, "tough" toys, and the like but as you know they're quite good destroyers. Recently, we've taken to stuffing other toys in her old toys and hiding cookies in the,. That works for a bit. We've also found a couple of toys that she's content to chew on without destroying everything. Not sure what that's about. Rubbing her cheeks calms her down, as does covering her with a blanket (it's kind of been the substitute crate in the last two months....) But we are also planning on getting another soon, and most people who we know have two are glad they did.
posted by grimley at 7:15 PM on November 7, 2006

(I love how you phrased your question.)

obviously you can't give bubble wrap or something shiny to a dog, it just might chew it. (that does seem to work with women though. they go for all the glossy magazines.)

so have you considered picking up running? I used to have a labrador retriever when I was younger and he was pretty much the same as your dog is. if I would take him out for a run on the other hand, he'd be exhausted and sleepy for hours. thirty minutes did it for me and got me into decent shape, too.
posted by krautland at 8:02 PM on November 7, 2006

Response by poster: Some really great answers. I have a lot to try out. Thanks very much for your help.
posted by vizsla at 9:05 PM on November 7, 2006

Training. Training is so key. Crate-training would work wonders, and you can certainly do some "chill" training as well.

I'd definitely recommend Katz on Dogs. It's a fantastic look at why most dog owners don't train, and how trainable almost all dogs really are. It's also well-written, and a fairly short read.
posted by god hates math at 10:04 PM on November 7, 2006

Tons of exercise, and if you've got a room kind of away from your office (because of the noise), get her a Buster Cube. But, I'm serious, unless you find/pay for a very small softer treat or want to spend a lot of time cutting up liver treats, it is like having a soup can full of BBs beaten against your head. It's worth it, though, because they can be energetic and jump around while they play with it, but it also engages the mind, which makes a calmer dog.

Here are some other interactive dog toys, many of which appear to be substantially quieter.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:33 AM on November 8, 2006

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