DEAR DIDI: I am hoping you can help solve a disagreement that my husband and I have been having. We love your column and your answer will be our ‘tiebreaker’ of sorts. My husband thinks our dog should spend nights outside in the yard to protect our home. I feel sorry for him and want him in the house but my husband says I baby him too much. What do you think? Caring Mom in Manteca
DEAR CARING MOM: It is true that some breeds of dogs are more adaptable to weather conditions than others. A dog’s average body temperature is around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, some dog breeds may feel the cold more intensely than us humans, while others, don’t really notice it due to their particular type of fur coat.
The idea that a dog can ‘protect’ your family or home from outside is ill founded. Statistics show that any dog in the home barking, including a Chihuahua, will deter 75 percent of casual crime. Meaning, if someone is out just looking for an opportunity to burglarize, a barking dog will call attention to the mischief. The criminal will usually pass up those homes rather than risk being noticed. If a criminal has particularly targeted your home for some reason a dog out in the yard will not stop them. The police department has seen cases of poisoned steaks being thrown over the fence to dispatch the canine threat.
All dogs are denning and pack animals. They want to be with their family. Out in the wild they will usually curl up in a deep hole in the ground which helps maintain a constant temperature, escape wind, rain and other weather conditions. The law provides for absolute basics only for dogs and mandates that dogs must have some sort of doghouse to get out of the weather. They must also have liquid drinking water. So when temperatures are dipping near and below the freezing point it is important to find a way to prevent their water bowls from freezing over. Ice cubes do not count this time of year! Keep in mind this is bare bones necessity. Many of us want more for our pets than basic survival.
As a Canine Behaviorist I can testify that dogs left out in the backyard for extended periods of time, whether it be daytime or nighttime, develop unwanted behavioral problems. Canines can be so beautifully bonded to their human family when treated properly and given rules, limitations and rewards. I also train personal protection dogs and can guarantee that your pooch will have a better chance at defending you against true violent crime if he is in the house with you. A Canine Behaviorist or qualified dog trainer can come to your home and help you assess your individual situation.
DEAR DIDI: I have dogs that love to stick their noses or heads out of the car windows when they ride with me. Is that bad for them? They both are floppy eared dogs. Concerned in Manteca
DEAR CONCERNED: I get this question from people all of the time. “He just loves his rides in the back of my pickup truck!”. Our dogs seem preprogrammed sometimes to stick their heads out those windows. The amount of fascinating smells whipping by at 45 mph are just too much to resist!
Unfortunately, the soft tissue areas of dogs’ ears, known as pinnae, can be repeatedly traumatized when beating against the edge of the window or the dogs’ own skull causing inflammation and swelling. This may go completely unnoticed by the owner or actually turn into a trip to the veterinarian. Debris flying in the air also puts your dogs’ eyes at risk. Something as innocuous as a ladybug can turn into a dangerous missile at 65 mph on the freeway. Veterinarians commonly treat scratches and puncture wounds from small rocks that cause windshield chips on your car but rip delicate face tissue on the dog.
Dogs are also capable of squeezing through tiny spaces. If they can get their entire skull through the gap in the window, they can also fall out. I heard a heart wrenching story from a client once about how he just wanted his dog to enjoy a nice summer ride but had to swerve suddenly to miss a stray cat. His dog fell out the window and was then run over by the very car he had been riding in!
We don’t let our young children hang out car windows for very good reason. Dogs are best kept safely in the cabin of the vehicle and secured with a harness/seatbelt combination or crated.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University, owner of California Canine, and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Dear Didi. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.