Over the past few years I have worked with a lot of dog/owner situations. Most of them were a simple matter of teaching the owner how to recognize triggers or how to un-poison cues. . . the basics of animal learning theory. Then there were some who were clearly mismatched with their dog and no amount of retraining would rectify it. It wasn’t a matter of love, but a matter of not being able to meet the dog’s inherent needs and the end result was frustration for both dog and owner.
People often choose the wrong dog for their lifestyle. I worked with this couple who had a border collie . . . they referred to her as “unteachable and naughty.” They got her because they wanted a smart dog, yet they both worked full time jobs, and had a small backyard. When I asked about exercise, they said they took her for walks twice a day. Herding dogs, like border collies and heelers, are high energy and bred to herd livestock. A walk on the leash is not exercise for them. They have to be able to run and have an outlet for their herding instinct, and they should never be punished for an inherent talent. Smart dogs need a job and/or mental stimulation . . . if you don’t provide it, they’ll find it on their own, and you may not always be happy with the task THEY choose.
Another client came to me with a large, young and rambunctious labrador retriever. She was an older lady with a fragile physique. Her concern was that the dog could knock her down and she could break something. Anybody who has ever owned a lab understands that they’re rambunctious and high-energy until 4 years of age. Exercise is absolutely essential for dogs like these . . . and mental stimulation as well. She worked all day and the dog was in a kennel. Obviously, she was terrified to let the dog out because she just exploded into a 70 lb bouncing bomb of joy. We spent some time on the basics, but it was clear that this woman could not give the dog what she needed, and she was becoming frustrated and frightened which transferred to the dog. It took some convincing that she needed to rehome her and luckily, her son who knew the temperament of labs, took her in.
Another mistake that people often make is getting a small, terrier type or chihuahua puppy for their toddler children. “Oh, they’ll be supervised.” Right. Then we hear about the dog dying because the toddler dropped him or her down the stairs, or broke a leg. These dogs “break” easily and should not be in the hands of toddler’s who have not yet learned that they could hurt something smaller than they are, and tiny animals should not be used as “teaching tools.” It’s more than one little dog that has been surrendered to the pound because he bit a child. Terriers and chihuahuas have a fierce disposition and most will defend themselves in the only way they know.
When people ask me about adopting a dog, I always ask what they want in a dog, how will the dog be spending the day, and how much time and desire do they have to devote to teaching their dog.
Sometimes, looking at their picture is enough to make a connection and you know that dog belongs with you. But that only works if you believe that there is no such thing as a “bad dog,” accept the dog with any quirks and baggage he comes with, and are willing to work through it.
Extraordinary Dogs Inc. has several who are in training and ready for adoption. If you are interested in finding your next “extraordinary friend” with us, we ask that you complete this questionnaire. By doing so, you will clarify to yourself what you want in a dog, and help us to choose suitable candidates for you. Because we take this extra step, our adoption rate is 100% and that is what we will continue to strive for. Bouncing around from home to home, foster or otherwise, is emotionally stressful for the dog.
Please read through some of the posts on this site about training and nutrition, and especially the terms of adoption. We want our dogs to have long and happy lives in one “forever home.”