Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Ray. Used with permission. All other rights reserved.
As I write this (Tuesday, 14 Jun 2005), Kwali is confined to a crate for twelve weeks. Last year, Kumbi had the same restrictions. We lived through this.
Kwali has been rather vocal about being crated, in contrast to Kumbi, who had so much pain I don't think he had time to be very vocal about confinement.
I received an appeal from a dog-list and email friend concerning a coonhound puppy, five months old, who is facing this same surgery: repair of the cranial (anterior) cruciate ligament. Of course, immediately I thought of my dear friend BraySing - Barbara Ray - and I asked her to make suggestions.
As is typical of Barbara, she responded immediately. Here is her reply, entirely off-the-cuff, but with what I consider such useful and wonderful observations that I'm posting her reply essentially unedited. Thanks so much, dear BraySing BraySing.
Oh, I hate these kinds of things! It seems so cruel to restrict any animal to a crate, even though it is for their own good, they can't know that.
In light of that, I would be inclined to stay right with the animal most of the time when I was around and when not, be completely out of the picture. With Jagger, we were supposed to keep him quiet too with his HOD [hypertrophic osteodystrophy: a severe inflammation and enlargement of the growth plates of primarily the long bones], but his own pain receptors helped regulate him, and he was actually wilder than I thought he should be, but I let his body dictate what! Didn't know if it was a good or bad thing, but he got through okay and relatively unscathed. I wonder if this dog is willing to lop around on three legs, in which case I would allow him more movement in the house with me, even on lead to restrict wildness!
My vets specify in-the-crate, possibly because lots of people lose concentration and cannot supervise with the attention of a Barbara Ray or possibly a Carol. But I know I'm capable of losing attention, so mostly, I'm sticking to the crate rule myself.
If the dog is on so much pain meds to not know he hurts, that is actually a disservice to the dog. (The advantage horses have is they are so large, we can never dose them high enough to get rid of most pain without knocking them practically out! So they hurt some and they move about on three legs. Which is actually hard on their three "healthy" legs and can cause inflammation and even founder because of the weird blood supply network in hoofstock. But a dog is cool - he can run on three legs forever and the only thing is he will have a lot more muscle built up on those legs!)
So I don't know if this dog is allowed out of its crate to lie around in a room with his people, like if I were doing dishes, I might put some xpen panels around me and let the pup be in that space with me, or if in the living room, panel my area where I sit so the dog can lie there etc. Hounds are terribly social in a needy greedy way, (we understand this, you and I!) and a crate is an immediate and severe restriction (in HoundMind) to being right with their social buddies/family.
It's really about the only sure thing to eliminate the noise. His barking/baying are squeals of misery at being separate and having no option to be with. I am not beyond somewhat sedating an animal part time in such a situation so he can be out of crate with me but still keep him quiet. We have to do this with horses all the time or they would damage themselves in potentially fatal ways. It's not a choice I like, but it gets them through that really touchy couple week period.
I think she is on the right track trying to do scent games and such, but if one overdoes it, it is just as likely to turn the dog off to playing the game, or the game becomes entirely boring.
Also, and this is how I taught my hounds to not make extra noise when they might be gated off in the mudroom to dry off and such, when the pups would bark or howl, I stood nearby where they couldn't see me, though of course they absolutely know right where I am!, and the second they stopped, even to catch their breath, I came in sight and clicked and treated. It doesn't take them long to figure out I never show up during noise, but you can get me to come by being silent, or I'll even take soft whining. I don't think we should stop them from saying what they need to say, so I am happy to live with a quiet inside voice. That might be the best option with this dog too - simply teach it an acceptable volume indoors. It might be torture to him to ask him for silence - in his misery.
Anyway, this is another game she could play with the dog, and gradually build in duration. It takes a lot of trust-building ~ consistency - so the dog is reinforced enough to choose longer stretches of quiet. Then, in cases where the dog has had to wait a too-long time period, essentially, he can make noise and this is when I will make noise with him, in the sense of my apologies etc, but it lets the dog know where are those parameters of acceptable levels of expression.
I wouldn't want my dog to be howling/barking nonstop, as this compounds the stress and inhibits healing. So I am not suggesting just let it go; however, I do think he may need to have space to adjust his noise, it is just one of those things one can't explain, you just know when it is right!
Anyway, I think a major factor would be moving the crate to where the people are so the dog is able, inasmuch as a crate allows, to be with his pack!
I do hope she does not go to some kind of punishment. This will deeply break a part of the dog's spirit in a most unfortunate way. There is a light that goes out in the center of those dark, liquid eyes and it is hard to get it back. The saving grace might be the pup is yet young and probably able to bounce back more eagerly than an older animal. Of course, his youth is also a more driving force behind the noise!
Barbara Ray is the Conservation Education Director of the Ohio Wildlife Center where she facilitates environmental experiences for people of all ages to foster proactive conservation behavior and peaceful coexistence with wildlife.
Note from Carol You can find Barbara Ray on her personal web site CoHorse.
You can also find Barbara Ray's posts on various Yahoo Groups lists by searching for the Yahoo ID she uses there: "jadesafyre."
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