As a trainer, I see a broad spectrum of dog (and human) behaviors. After many years of working with people excited about training their dogs or desperate to train their dogs, it occurs to me that a large part of my job description comes down to keeping dogs in their homes. I’d like to change that to helping create good homes for dogs, and articles like the latest from Cindy Bruckart at www.dogstardaily.com are a good start.
Someone recently asked me a question - what age was too young to begin training. My response was that it’s never too soon, socialization is key - to environments, people, dogs, surfaces, cars, skateboards, etc. – anything that your dog will have to deal with throughout their life with you.
I can’t stress enough how much better your relationship with your dog will be if you use the puppy’s formative weeks for good instead of evil. There is a mountain of literature out there on how to safely and effectively prepare your dog for a lifetime of happy family moments - I’ve included some links to get you started. You can also take a look at my other articles - there is a 3-part article on puppy development and how they learn.
The article - Who Killed these Dogs - resonates with me because I deal with the many of the same issues again and again. The percentage of people that have the best intentions, but get out-dated or just plain bad advice from friends and family, random strangers, the vet, the Internet, or TV outweighs the percentage of people that don’t ask for help, in my experience, but the end result is the same for the dog.
I work with many rescues and shelters and appreciate working with the rescues who focus on finding permanent homes for dogs, not just getting them adopted. It's a big disservice to the potential family that has made a commitment to rescuing their next dog to give them one that will tear a hole in their heart when the physical or behavioral problems that it has are too overwhelming to fix and they must make a decision that will create a lifetime of guilt - and how likely do you think that family will be to adopt a rescue again or recommend it to their family or friends?
She says some very pertinent things about training as well - we need to train the humans in order to help the dogs.
Here are some excerpts that had me nodding as I read the article -
"The relinquishment of pets has several causes, but none of them are a mystery. First and foremost is the failure of dog owners to educate themselves BEFORE they get a puppy (ring any bells?). If potential dog owners would do this one thing it would literally wipe out all of the other causes of pet homelessness as we know it and save thousands of lives. It is seriously, truly, honestly that simple."
"If this happened the puppy mills would go out of business quickly because the now savvy, educated market would no longer be interested in their product. If this happened veterinarians who suggested keeping puppies at home until they are 16 weeks of age would go out of business for giving out-dated advice. If this happened even those dogs who might become homeless would be quickly snatched up because they would be house trained, well-mannered, friendly and have good bite inhibition. If this happened dog trainers would be busier than they’ve ever been conducting puppy classes and teaching students how to participate in all the sports and activities they wanted to do with their friendly, well-behaved dogs."
"If you are at the shelter looking to adopt a dog, I want you to know that you are not responsible for the fearful, reactive, hard to deal with but heartbreaking dog who is up for adoption. If that dog ends up being euthanized it is not on your hands. Nor is it on the hands of the shelter that euthanized it. It is the original owner, whoever they acquired the dog from that is responsible for where that dog is now."
"If you adopt an aggressive, fearful or otherwise damaged dog without understanding what that means for your future as a dog owner, you have been duped by the rescue/shelter because you walked in there uneducated and not knowing what you wanted. No different than what happens every day on used car lots. Buyer beware and be educated! Many people have a mechanic look over a car before they buy it. More people should have a trainer look over dog before they adopt it."
"And when we see propaganda like the picture that started this thread, we have an obligation to every one of those dogs who have died to speak up and tell the truth. It was hard for me. Not here, but elsewhere. I felt like a bitch stirring up trouble. But you know what? Tomorrow I go back to work at the shelter and dogs will be dropped off by uneducated owners, dogs will die, dogs will be adopted, dogs will be assessed, and dogs will be trained. The people who landed those dogs in a shelter will not feel responsible, while the people who didn't will cry."
"Am I angry? You bet. Do I think the anger is justified? Absolutely. But if we want solutions we have to channel that anger and attack the problem where it will make a difference. I love it when a great dog finds a great home, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that an adoption, or even a thousand adoptions, is going to stop dogs from dying. Puppy classes will. Educating kids will. Educating the puppy buying market will. Pictures of dead dogs won’t."
Traci Murdock, CPDT-KA, is a Master Trainer, Canine Behavior Specialist, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and she is a Talent Scout and Wrangler. She has trained dogs and their humans for over 11 years. Traci's expertise includes pet dog issues, nutrition, behavior issues, dog sports and activities, and rescue and adoption, and she has experience in just about any dog-related subject. Traci volunteers as a behavior consultant and trainer for rescues and shelters.
For more info: If you are interested in learning different ways to solve problems and communicate with your dog, you can go to www.Training-Spot.net or send an email to TAMIam@training-spot.net with any questions or comments or for help with specific issues that you are having with your dog.