We live in a society where just about everything is disposable including our glass bottles, shoes, clothing and yes – dogs!
I remember days (this makes me sound old) when things were repaired and not thrown away. I remember taking my shoes to the shoemaker for a new pair of soles, in fact I still do that; and glass bottles in the real old days would go back to the plant and get washed and then refilled. Not any more. If it doesn’t work – throw it away! That’s become out motto and this is carried through to our pets too. It’s also what’s screwing up our whorl big time!
So many pets that end up in our shelters “just didn’t work out.” They growled, peed on the floor, were too much energy, got old, didn’t like the new boyfriend / girlfriend or a host of other reasons. What’s the best we can do with these “things”? Well, get rid of them of course – and then at some point get another one. Remember, the new one doesn’t have the same problems as the old one, so it will all work out.
The problem with this logic is that most dogs didn’t have the “problem” to begin with and the problem, at it’s root, is the animal at the other end of the leash – the human. When dogs are puppies all the crazy stuff they do like barking, biting, chasing things and lunging at the guests as well as other dogs is cute. Oftentimes it’s actually encouraged. Then when the dog weighs 60+ pounds it becomes a problem. Well a quick visit to a local pet store training or a session with a yellow page dog trainer is about the most effort this dog will receive before he’s dumped at the shelter.
What people don’t see as the problem is that a dog is a living, feeling being. He is prone to develop according to the environment he lives in. He doesn’t understand English or Spanish or any other language for that matter, so yelling at him doesn’t get him to understand. What you taught him is all he knows. If you choose not to give him any structure whatsoever as a puppy and think that things will change when he gets older, you’re wrong – dead wrong! And the dead wrong relates to the dog – not you!
Our nation’s shelters are filled with really good dogs that were dumped there because they were doing exactly what they were taught by their humans. They have done nothing wrong. Given the structure they require they can be loving, obedient pets. The problem becomes the humans on their second and third tries. So many dogs end up with multiple families before they ever turn 18 months old. This lack of structure or consistency can confuse dogs and lead to behavioral issues that seem alarming. However when a person finally opts for the structure the dog requires, they will end up with a good dog. I’ve seen this first hand with countless dogs that I’ve trained privately as well as those that I’ve worked with at the shelters.
The bottom line its that dogs are NOT disposable. Dogs need structure and need to belong. Dogs are not there to “teach responsibility to a child” — they are living beings that can make your life whole and bring the greatest sense of reward to your life if you give them a chance. If you know someone who is thinking of getting a dog on a whim, talk them out of it.
Dogs are not a lot of work, in fact they’re really easy and require less work than most things in life. They do require structure and training from early on. When I say early on, I mean from the time to you get them. A dog will pick up on the structure of his pack and his leader irrelevant of his age. Give him guidance and friendship as well as training. Be consistent, dogs unlike most people thrive on consistency. If you aren’t gonna hike your dog three times a week next year, don’t do it this year. Allow your dog to fit into your family and be certain that he will be there for his entire life.