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If you have a dog that tends to become bored and destructive when he or she is left alone, one option to help with the problem is to modify the environment. This can occur by creating a dog room or simply confining the dog to a particular area of the house that is safe from any possible damage the dog may do. Increasing exercise and even getting the dog involved in obedience classes can also help a lot with this type of destructive behavior from boredom. Providing toys and puzzles for the dog to play with while you are gone is also another option.
Kenneling a dog inside the house or in a heated outdoor kennel is another option, but even in the moderate sized kennels or dog pens there is little room for activity and movement. If you have a dog that already is a very low activity dog this is only going to increase the level of non-active time and possibly increase problems with mobility and obesity.
An often ideal option for this very common problem is to work with another dog owner to provide companionship for your dogs while you both are away. Of course there is also the option to work with each other's schedules to provide supervision for the two dogs as well, something that will be very important until you are sure the dogs are well suited to being alone with each other.
As a general guideline look for a dog that is about the same age and size as your dog, although the age factor is not that important with one exception. A senior dog may not appreciate the high levels of activity and play of a puppy or juvenile dog, so depending on the mobility and activity level as well as temperament of the older dog this may or may not be a good idea.
Choosing a dog that is about the same size also helps with any concerns that may occur over large and small dogs playing together. In general most large and small dogs get on very well and don't have difficulties, but again there certainly are exceptions to this very general statement. Toy breeds and some of the smaller terrier breeds can be very possessive and territorial, which can be a problem regardless of the size of the companion dog.
Ideally both dogs should be non-aggressive and well socialized. This means that the dogs are comfortable around other dogs and people and can adjust to being in a different environment without becoming aggressive or nervous. Once the dogs have gone back and forth between houses a few times they should be well adjusted to the routine and this ceases to be a concern for either the dogs or the owners.
It is also essential to confirm that in the other household all dogs and household pets are up to date on their vaccinations as well as undergoing routine flea, worm and heartworm medications. You may also want to consider vaccinating for kennel cough if one or both dogs are not already up to date with this type of vaccination.
Ensuring that both dogs are spayed or neutered or both of the same gender if they are intact may seem obvious, but it is something that needs to be confirmed. Some breeds don't do well with dogs of the same sex, so you do need to know a bit about the breed traits as well as how your individual dog responds.
If you are going to consider this option there are a few ways to get this dog companionship off to a great start. The first is to talk to the other pet owner and make sure you both have the same general expectations of behavior for the dogs. This prevents problems with your dog picking up bad habits at the other person's home and vice versa. Always ask about types of training methods used and make sure you and the other owner are on the same page. Also look closely at the other dog and make sure it is calm, non-aggressive and not a cowed or frightened dog that may signal an owner that uses harsh punishment techniques.
Introduce the two dogs in a neutral place such as a dog park or by taking the two dogs out on a walk together. By doing this you prevent either dog from being territorial on their own home turf. Keep the dogs on a leash until you are sure they are friendly and through sizing each other up. Any raised hackles, growling or aggressive types of body posture is a signal they need to be kept on the leash for a bit longer.
Allow the two dogs to play together off leash when they are calm. A dog park that is fenced is perfect for this as you can give them some freedom yet still be there to supervise. Both owners should interact with both dogs and test for any signs of jealousy or possessiveness of the dog towards the other canine. If this happens, it will be important to work with the two dogs before leaving them together at one house or the other.
Be sure to provide lots of rewards while the dogs are playing together. Meet a couple of times and then, when you feel the dogs are ready, bring them both to the house. Be sure to take up all the favorite toys and the food bowls on the first few visits to avoid any problems as the "home" dog gets used to another dog in his or her space. When they are comfortable with each other you can start to introduce toys, but keep an eye on how each dog interacts over the toys and remove any that seem to be a problem.
Providing your dog with companionship when you have to be away is a great way to keep both dogs happy and content. It is also a way to provide both mental and physical stimulation as well as socialization, but it does need to be done slowly to prevent any potential problems as the dogs adjust.
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