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What shelter dogs need the most has absolutely nothing to do with brick and mortar. It doesn’t matter to dogs what color the paint on the wall is, what modern design a shelter has, or that you can even feed and water them without the need to open the gates. It’s not the fabric of the building that makes a difference, it’s the people inside the building, the quality of the staff, and it’s the caregivers that will make that difference.
Why are we building more shelters when we were told that the spay/neuter campaigns were supposed to take care of the overpopulation? We should be closing doors, not opening new ones to even bigger shelters… and when technology takes over the details of feeding a dog, the dog loses the human touch, the hand that would have touched him and the face that would have smiled at him. A better solution would be to educate people in our communities about the necessity of training their dogs to live in a world of people and educate them about the natural behaviors of dogs and their body language.
Thousands of adoptable dogs are destroyed every year in animal shelters across Canada and the US. To comprehend the magnitude of this needless waste of life, think about a pet you are fond of and all the animal’s qualities. Then think of the thousands of pets just like the one you are fond of who wants nothing more than to be part of a loving family, but are killed every day in Canada and the US
Why are we breeding more and more dogs when most times we can pick exactly what we want from shelters, the vast majority of dogs destroyed are not inferior to those who come from breeders or pet stores? Shelter dogs can make much better companions than those bred for pet sales. Police dogs, service dogs, sniffer dogs come from shelters.
And even if you’re looking for a pure bred dog, that’s no longer a problem either, the days of only locating mutts are gone; twenty years ago you wouldn’t see a Boxer, Shih Tzu, Corgi, or a Cocker Spaniel in a shelter. It’s quite a different story now; you will find Pugs, Papillions, Bichons, Huskies, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Labradors, Goldens and Border Collies.
There’s a dog hanging on to go home with you, so why are we not adopting our companion dogs? Don’t buy your dog from a breeder, don’t buy from a pet shop, don’t buy on line, don’t buy from a puppy mill, buy your dog from your local shelters or breed rescues, you may find that once in a lifetime dog.
And if there aren’t enough homes for dogs in shelters and their obviously aren’t, we should be taking the best ones and not take in the worst ones, we should make the owner responsible or better still we should make the breeder responsible.
We ought to be training people to take responsibility for their pets when they behave inappropriately in society and in their homes instead of dumping them for someone else to repair. Perhaps pre-testing them before they come in rather than after they are dropped off. When the owner arrives and says I don’t want it anymore, the person who is doing the interview could ask the owner to groom it for about ten minutes. If the dog won’t tolerate the owner touching it how are they going to find a new home? They could do a lot of work with him in the shelter, but not all shelters are equipped with professional groomers that will teach the dog to accept being touched and handled.
Then mix up a bowl of food and ask the owner to stroke it while it’s eating, you won’t need an assess-a-hand now you have the real one and it’s the owners. And if the owner knows she can’t touch the dog while it’s eating, they will decline to do the test in front of you anyway. That prevents the dog coming in and perhaps going out with problems that the staff might not know about, and it also avoids all these extensive hard to do test in shelters that take up a lot of time and finances. Would this not tell us a lot more about the dog that’s being dropped off?
Only accepting surrenders that are adoptable would make it less challenging to find them homes and get them out of this highly competitive, high stress environment quicker while saving time and money that could be better put to use somewhere else. Then you could ask the owner to walk by other dogs and if their dog is lunging out at other dogs, don’t take it in. In other words the shelter is not taking responsibility for a dog that’s already a problem. Shelters would then be in the business for finding homes for nice dogs.
Then if the dog failed the test, I’m talking about an owner drop off, they would need to go through some sort of training and at the owners cost before being accepted for adoption. Thus giving the responsibility back to owners. What are we teaching the next generation of companion dog owners? Do we want them to think that our companion dogs are just something we can dispose of for whatever reason? What about our children and grandchildren, will they follow our ways or can we begin to make a change by doing things differently and setting new goals for unwanted animals?
We can begin with how to improve the way we train companion dogs. It’s no longer in demand to train our dogs to do precision heel-work, to sit-stay with its owner of sight or to come to front on a recall and then finish to heel. This is for competitive obedience; it has no purpose what so ever for a companion dog owner. Something as simple as teaching people how to teach their dog to walk nicely on a loose leash; could save dog lives.
Teaching owners to have their dog sit when requested, or to be able to send their dog to its mat or bed, or to teach dogs self-control. And how about how to use emotions to give dogs feed -back. Emotional language is universal just as is body language and no one uses it anymore, you don’t need words to be understood by dogs worldwide.
And here’s the big one. Prior to the past two decades, the idea of socializing a puppy involved familiarizing our puppy to a variety of different people under different circumstances and environments. We did this because domestic dogs live in a people world. During this past decade or so, there has been a shift in emphasis from socializing dogs to people to socializing dogs to other dogs.
I think there may be several reasons that motivated this shift. Undeniably guilt plays a role here. Then our lifestyles have become more and more complex as well which means our dogs mean far more to us. What better way to compensate our dogs than allowing our dogs the opportunity to romp with their own kind and to become one with their inner dog?
Though that sounds ideal, it overlooks several realities that I find troubling. First, humans have spent more than 10,000 years, 40,000 maybe even 100.000 years domesticating dogs so dogs would prefer humans over canine companionship. Do we really want to encourage dogs to play by canine rather than human rules while at the same time we demand more of them in their intimate interactions with us?
And finally, don’t forget to ask why you think your dog needs this kind of activity. If your dog is well-behaved and healthy, chances are that he or she is perfectly content to spend time with you rather than other dogs. Is that not why we call them companion dogs, to be people companions rather than another dog’s companion.
I love the fact that my dogs would rather play with me than any other dog they meet. They are being normal balanced dogs by choosing me. I don’t want to be treated like just another canine. I want to be all I can for my dogs in return I also want them to be all they can for me, after all I control everything in their world, I want them to want to be with me because I’m a heck of a lot more fun than any dog they would ever meet. Dogs that would rather interact with other dogs than people are not the normal but rather the exception.
Does that mean that you can’t engage in dog activities because you enjoy the companionship of other people who like dogs, too? Not at all. However, just be sure to select those activities that will meet your dog’s needs and not just yours. So if owners took responsibility for the education of their dog we would have better behaved dogs that would remain in their homes, with their families and alive by looking at changes we could make by:
1. Making training and education a requirement in order to own a dog
2. Training effective and useful real life exercises
3. Accepting only good dogs from drop-offs
4. Having owners perform behavior testing, as this will tell us much more about that dog
5. Placing the emphasis on socializing dogs to people, rather than dog to dog
6. Refusing bad dogs as surrenders until some training has been done by its owner at the owners cost
If we taught owners in dog training classes’ useful everyday exercises that they could actually use in their homes where they spend ninety percent of their time with their dog they may not get as frustrated, they could send the dog to his mat to chill out.
If we taught owners how to achieve loose leash walking, they could enjoy walking their dogs without the stress of jerking and yelling at them, which creates owners that end up disliking their dog. We could make such wide-spread changes while diminishing a disease known as “Disposable Pet Syndrome”.
For even more training and behavior tips, visit The Pee Press!