Are We Breeding Shelter Dogs?

I’ve been up in Oakland at the APDT annual conference for the past few days. Yesterdays Fear and Anxiety in Dogs symposium had some good information, but one topic I’m quite passionate about is the issues with dogs ending up in shelters. Whose fault is it? In my professional certified dog trainer opinion, it’s certainly not the dogs.

I don’t believe it’s anyones intention for dogs to end up in shelters, even breeders. Just like when parents have children, I’m sure it’s never their intention to breed criminals – but it happens. Unlike humans though, dogs often aren’t provided an environment where they can make choices we want them to make. They’re left to fend for themselves, then get blamed and in trouble for acting like a dog – humans get frustrated, then they take the dog to the shelter attaching labels like “My dog it aggressive and dominant, I can’t deal with him (or her) any more.”
What can be done? Prevention and Socialization!!! Sure, puppy training classes and basic dog training classes are great, but it needs to go beyond the basic 6-session dog obedience class. Just like humans go through a multitude of developmental stages, so do our dogs. It doesn’t stop at just one class.
  • Teach dogs behaviors they need to exist in our human world. And continue reinforcing those skills learned.
  • What items to chew on and when.
  • How to be alone and entertain themselves through enrichment programs designed for dogs.
  • Meet and greet hundreds of humans while they’re young pups, and again continue allowing them to meet new people, in different places and in different situations.
  • CONTINUE socialization during adolescence so they can continue learning and adapting to their environment.
  • Understand what normal behaviors are for dogs.
For many of these dogs it’s the environment they are born into, and are raised in, that is often the cause for the issues that land them in the shelters – so again this falls back onto the shoulders of the humans that have the most influence over them and their quality of life. I only wish that some day there are universal training protocols, “Gold Standards” if you will, for dog training. Until then it’s wise to be critical thinkers, use common sense, and plan for how to raise a healthy and happy dog in order to keep them out of the shelter.

Counter Surfing: a great sport for dogs

I’ve received lots of questions from owners of inquisitive caninesabout “stealing” stuff off of counters and table tops… Hello? We’re dogs! These are some of our normal traits, and what makes us dogs in the first place…If you wanted a pet that didn’t do this, you should have considered getting a turtle or a fish… But, I’m glad to hear you adopted a dog…and I’m more than happy to provide some help.

Here are a few tips on dealing with us inquisitive canines and the sport of counter-surfing:

  • What dogs are: our doggy DNA says for us to scavenge, hunt, sniff, explore … That’s what we were born to do! Please remember this. The saying is “Release the hounds!” not “release the humans”!
  • Management: “Lead us not into temptation.” If you don’t want us to get to something, then put it away! After all, if it’s within reach, and appears interesting, we’re going to investigate! Us canines have been known to be impulsive and lack self-control. Please refrain from leaving things out, especially if you’re not going to keep an eye on us. And if you do, kindly have the integrity to take responsibility for it! (Maybe mom will blog about her latest visit to the Sees candy shop in Santa Barbara).
  • Play the exchange game, not the chase game: if we have something “illegal”, exchange it for something better – this way we’ll be happy to give it up, and not develop that other doggy hard-wired behavior of guarding our stuff! You don’t really like that one either… And for goodness sake, does chasing us really help matters? Or just turn it into a different game? A game most inquisitive canines love.
  • Provide Legal Outlets: make sure they’re items we like, not ones you think we should like. (Have you ever wanted to return a gift someone gave you?) As a bonus, reward us for making the right choice, this way, we’ll want to do that more often.
  • Teach us a special behavior: “Drop” comes in handy. You say “drop”, your dog lets go of the item, and you give them a treat … pretty simple. It’s just the reverse action of picking things up with our mouth…instead of retrieving we’re dropping something.

I used to counter-surf too…but mom and dad quickly figured out how to solve their problem. Bummer for me…I guess I trained them to pay attention. I wonder if the surf will ever be up for me again? Hmm, something for this inquisitive canine to ponder…