Friday, July 23, 2010

Making Headway With Homer

Having a beagle isn't like having other dogs. They are one of the most misunderstood breeds out there. They are one of the cutest breeds and are calm, loving dogs, but their energy level can shoot through the roof. As a result, they are one of the most common breeds you will find in shelters. This week has been a roller coaster ride when it comes to understanding why Homer does what he does.

Oh Homer!

This week was extremely challenging with Homer. It seemed that every chance he got, he would bring something that was inappropriate to chew in for us to see. One moment it was a pillow from the couch in the living room. The next time he would bring in a pillow from my mom's bed. After taking that away from him, he brought in one of the bathroom rugs.

When he does this, he does this to destructively chew. The kicker was when he went into the living room after I put all the pillows away to grab the seat cushion of my mom's favorite chair. When it was too quiet, I went to check on him after a few minutes and was in complete disbelief. There on the floor, I saw the seat cushion with a chunk removed from the corner.

When Reality Hits

It was apparent that Homer was acting out and my mom and I were at the end of our rope. My mom decided to call my brother to figure out what would be best for Homer. After a rough night and not knowing what to do, I left the decision up to my mom.

The next morning, my mom came to the decision that we were giving Homer two more weeks to see if we can improve the living situation. I was looking at abeagle rescue group and the one that I saw had at least 50 dogs up for adoption in the midwest alone. That's a lot of dogs! I had agility with Homer later that day and one of the agility teachers last week said that one of the ladies who work in the build is a dog behavior expert and that it would be good for me to talk to her.

Beagles 101

I arrived at agility about 15 minutes early. After sitting with Homer for a bit, I thought I would seek out Nancy Reyes from For Your Canine before class. When I went to her office, she took a few minutes to talk to be about Homer. It turned out that she was a beagle owner as well and had a 13 year-old beagle named Bailey.

After observing Homer and having him play with a bigger German Shepherd, Nancy discovered these things.
  1. Homer wasn't getting enough exercise. When Homer first came into our house, it was a couple of months ago. The weather was cooler and less humid and it was easier to give him a good workout. When summer arrived, it wasn't as easy to get out and exercise him. Running the risk of heatstroke was not worth the extra time outside. Homer got tired of playing fetch inside too.

    Nancy then informed me that Beagles were bred to hunt. They are always using their noses and are motivated by food. He was acting up for attention because he was bored and didn't have enough to do. She showed me a game that I could do with Homer. It was called find it. You take a treat in break it into little bits and place the bits in a spot that they could find with their nose.

    For a beagle playing scent games and making the dog use their nose, is as good of a workout as having them run a mile.
  2. Homer was relentless with Gigi. Gigi is a very sweet, laid-back and docile dog. She loves a good walk but is happy when she gets her treats and her exercise. Homer knowing that Gigi has a playful side is too alluring. As a result, he's always on Gigi to play with him. It turns out that even though Gigi has a high energy level, Homer's energy level is much higher. When Gigi says "I've had enough", Homer would tell her "I want to play more".

    Also, Homer will steal the toy she's chewing because he wants it. When I told Nancy about this, she told me to take it away from him. When she found out that I do that already, she said if he does it again, to give him a time out. Unfortunately, with Homer's penchant for pillows, the only thing I can do is put him in his crate. She told me that was ok because he needs to learn his boundaries. As for when he gets too much for Gigi, I need to give him an activity to keep him engaged.
  3. Homer is a major worrier.During much of his puppyhood, Homer was left by himself in a crate for hours at a time. His previous owner knew that he needed more of a human presence in his life since Beagles are such strong pack dogs. Homer has quite a case of separation anxiety. All dogs have their fears, and not knowing how to handle this breed, didn't help with his fearfulness. Where I thought he was being aggressive, he was acting out in fear.

    Time and patience are instrumental in helping Homer overcome his fears. If the dog owner doesn't stay calm, the dog will sense that.
  4. Homer bouts with carsickness. Although this affects many dogs, there's a very good chance Homer will grow out of this. It helps having him ride in the front seat and he loves to put his head out the window. I was relieved to learn this.

Moving Forward

Speaking to another beagle owner has helped me realized that Homer is an incredible dog. While no dog is perfect, understanding what motivates your breed, makes a huge difference in helping to train them. Beagles are unique because once you master what makes them tick, the rewards will be worth all of the work. Agility has been great for refocusing Homer's excess energy. It's helped give him some obedience skills as well. I hope to be able to arrange play dates with other dogs and take them on outings. I have high hopes that I will be able to stick with Homer and bring out the superstar that lurks underneath.

Let's Discuss!

Have you worked with a breed of dog that is difficult? What were some methods you used that helped?

Related Posts

When Your Dog Is Fearful
When Your Puppy is Too Peppy
The Newest Member Of The Crew
4 Reasons Your Dog Likes To Destroy Things

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