Review: The Latchkey Dog

The Latchkey Dog, by Jodi Andersen

I saw this book the library and was intrigued by its title and premise, even though I’d never heard of the book or its author before. The author, New York dog trainer Jodi Andersen, makes the case that our 21st-century schedules are profoundly influencing the behaviors of our dogs.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it seems like most people assume that dogs will adapt to the busyness of our lives just like we do. Unfortunately, this is not the case–as anyone with a dog with separation anxiety can tell you.

Throughout the book, Andersen shares anecdotes of her many clients and the behavioral problems she helped correct. One of the main problems Andersen returns to is the issue of people treating their dogs like children. As couples delay the age at which they bear children, many take in dogs and start treating them like surrogate children. This sounds pleasant enough, but these pampered pooches develop untold behavioral problems. Simply, remember that your dog is not a human, Andersen urges. He may seem like he perfectly understands your rambling about the stresses of your work day, but in reality, he just wants you to stop talking so you can take him outside where he can smell stuff. Give him discipline and structure, just like you would to a child, but with the keen understanding that he is a dog and he will thus think, act, and react like a dog. This, Andersen notes, will save you a lot of heartache.

Although I didn’t learn a lot of new training techniques, I did come away from this book with a refreshed perspective on how to care for a dog while working full-time. Start training very early. Work on preventing separation anxiety before it even starts. Make your dog do chores. Lavish affection AND discipline. And then maybe your dog will bring you a bit more joy than insanity.

Pup links and a soapbox

A Kennel of Dogs print, by Woop Studios. Source: Design Sponge

Studying Kids and Pet Allergies. This is a confirming study–apparently, if you’re born into a home with dogs, you’re less likely to develop a pet dander allergy later in life. (The Bark blog)

Custom Dog Stamps by Kozue. I love stamps, woodcuts, and dogs. So, I guess I need one of these stamps. (Dog Milk)

Siro Twist Pet Bed. This bed is so attractive and designer-friendly. Too bad it’s $460. Because you know if you bought your dog a $460 bed, he’d never sleep in it and prefer the pile of old towels by the back door. (Pawesome)

Holy Imprinting! Imprinting is always totally adorable. Especially when it involves a Pembroke Welsh corgi and two yellow ducklings. (Cute Overload)

Not Enough Time. I would just like to add my rousing agreement to this post from the Inu-Baka blog–and step up on a brief soapbox. I am always astounded by people who bring dogs into their lives with seemingly little thought to how much time dogs need and deserve. Clearly, as the writer here points out, you can have a full-time job AND be a great dog owner. If you say that your full-time job keeps you from caring for your dog, you don’t care enough about your dog. And you should never have gotten a dog in the first place. For anything that we prioritize in our lives, we will make time for it. I make time for my husband because he matters to me. I make time to read because I love to read. I will make time for my dog because I will love my dog and want what’s best for him.

I once heard a new dog owner talk about how dogs were so much better than children because “unlike kids, you can leave a dog in a crate for 12 hours and it’ll be fine.” I think my mouth fell open. No, that dog will NOT be fine! This is borderline animal abuse. And yet so many people think this is an acceptable way to “live” with a dog.

I always get a little nervous when people come into the SPCA looking for dogs as “companions” for their young children. I feel like many parents believe that dogs come pre-programmed to be a child’s best friend. Nothing could be further from the truth. The great “Lassie”-like dogs you see are great because of extensive training, attention, and care. So many people adopt cute puppies for their kids and then, less than a year later, those same puppies are back in the shelter–confused and abandoned–because people were totally clueless about how much attention and time a puppy needs.

Judge your schedule very carefully before bringing a dog into your home. This is something I tell other people and I tell myself regularly. Adopting a dog is not a carefree or temporary commitment. Don’t get a dog if you will abandon it a year later. Dogs deserve better.