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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 14 July 2003 Issue

BITE BACK
Teaching your Adopted Dog
Psych4Dogs@aol.com  

FIRST, a primer on why dogs are dumped, put into kill shelters, put up for “adoption” in the newspaper (VERY bad place to get a dog unless you're an experienced rehabilitator), etc.

The dog can’t be housebroken. This actually means that the PEOPLE are too STUPID or LAZY, or that children have been given this awesome responsibility and can’t possibly produce results.

The dog is destructive. This usually means that, in order to get ANY attention, the dog has learned to “take” items the people in the home don’t want the dog to have, i.e., socks, underwear, remote control, etc.

The dog “barks too much”, which usually means that the dog is left alone and unsupervised for far too much time (possibly outside) and/or is a breed or breed mix that DOES bark to alarm its humans, but no one bothered to find this out before acquiring a puppy.

The dog grew too large (duh)

The dog is too hairy (double duh)

The dog pulls on leash (yes people DO dump dogs for this reason.)

Someone is allergic to the dog (i.e., they don’t like the dog or don’t want the dog any more.)

The dog jumps up on visitors (well, hello?)

The dog doesn’t match the new sofa (yes, I have heard this.)

ETCETRA!

As the new and permanent owner, you may very well encounter

the things that caused this dog to end up in a municipal shelter. So what? I hope you didn’t expect perfection! No matter how well trained, how well habituated, how well bred a dog is, in a new environment it will never be perfect! Don’t expect this poor, confused dog to become Lassie overnight.

One by one, I will address issues:

The dog can’t be housebroken. From an experienced dog owner’s perspective, this is patently idiotic. Dogs are “den” animals (yes, they do inherit that need to keep their immediate living space clean!) Housebreaking a dog isn’t about rolled up newspapers, yelling, and loads of Clorox! It’s about using YOUR brain. WATCH the dog. When you cannot WATCH the dog, crate the dog. If you cannot crate the dog, confine him/her to a small area (laundry room) where s/he is FED and SLEEPS. Do NOT expect any dog to be able to go more than five hours without eliminating. Can YOU? Keep the dog in the same room you are in, no matter where that is in your home. WATCH the dog. Take the dog out every two hours and PRAISE/REWARD any elimination. Do this consistently for at least one week. The dog will always choose the behavior THAT IS REWARDED! This means, the dog will learn to eliminate OUTSIDE for reward/praise (a small bit of cheese or hot dog and a "good dog”.) Once the dog is consistently eliminating outside, expand its availability to your home by one room at a time, and repeat the reward/praise. Your dog WILL CHOOSE to eliminate outdoors and the reward/praise can be slowly withdrawn. A HEALTHY DOG DOES NOT WANT TO SOIL ITS LIVING SPACE and your entire home will eventually become that living space.

The dog is destructive. This is normally a response to boredom and/or a puppy-related phenomenon. If your newly adopted dog seems to have a unique attachment to paper, remote control devices, mail, wallets, etc., it’s because the dog has LEARNED that taking this object gets attention! Set the dog up. Throw down a piece of paper/remote control/etc. and the moment the dog grabs that object, LEAVE THE ROOM! Until the dog DROPS the object, keep removing yourself from the dog! You will be teaching the dog that your presence requires his noninvolvement with whatever object he has decided is necessary to get your attention. Dogs are very simple creatures. Everything they do, every behavior, is either rewarded or not rewarded (or punished, which is what your leaving the room does). If you consistently (CONSISTENTLY) set the dog up and leave the room when s/he exhibits the behavior you do not want, the dog will STOP the behavior you do not want!

The dog barks too much. DOGS BARK! Hey, no kidding? DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Is your dog’s breed intended for independent guarding? (Doberman, Rottweiler, Akita, etc.) Was your dog BRED to give alarm? Is your dog a herding breed? (Collie, German Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, etc.) Your dog may have been BRED to give “tongue” when any threat approaches. Give yourself the “DUH” test. Find out which of you, dog and Human, is lacking. I’d bet my house that it’s you, the Human. Remember: your dog is in a kill shelter for a reason. If s/he was found as a stray, then it’s a “running” problem. If s/he was an owner turn in, then it’s some OTHER sort of problem. BE PREPARED to help the dog OUT of its problem. To keep a dog from barking too much, train it to bark on command. Use reward (food and clicker). Teach the dog to bark with any word of your choice. THEN, once the dog barks on command, teach it to STOP with any word of your choice. Information on how to TEACH a dog to do ANYTHING is readily available on the Internet. Go to any search engine and enter "Karen Pryor” and you will be given the URL of her site and you will be able to purchase any tools necessary to teach ANY dog ANYTHING with NO pain.

The dog is too large, the dog is too hairy. I think you can figure this one out by yourselves! If you don’t have the room in your home for a Neapolitan Mastiff, don’t adopt one! If you have a white carpet and you don’t relish vacuuming up dark hairs every day, don’t adopt a shedding, dark haired dog! Duh!

Ditto!

The dog pulls on leash. VERY common for young dogs, who are enthusiastic to be outside, to PULL owners along. Without getting complicated (because you haven’t been to Karen Pryor’s site yet, have you?), a “promise” collar or a “Halti” (both available at your Vet’s office) will immediately stop pulling on leash. The dog doesn’t intend to drag you, most of the time. S/he simply wants to investigate the outdoors. No casual walk should involve chain link collars and pain. If you can’t use a promise collar or halti collar, simply go in the opposite direction every single time your dog pulls you forward. This might create an awkward walking experience for the first few days, BUT…your dog WILL learn that, if s/he wants to go forward, s/he will have to FOLLOW you. THROW OUT THAT CHOKER COLLAR! This is the year 2003! We, as Humans, can certainly know enough to teach a simple animal (the domestic dog) to do what WE want them to do without inflicting pain! Can’t we?

All other problems:

The dog jumps up on visitors. No! Really? Dogs want to make eye contact with any “stranger” and deliver to that stranger the message that the dog was there first! This is NORMAL! Do NOT allow your dog to GREET your guests! It’s not the dog’s job! In fact, in order to protect your dog, keep him isolated from large numbers of visitors at a time (if you’re having a party, for instance.) In all other circumstances, teach the dog to “sit” on visual or verbal command and tell your guest not to give any attention to the dog until the dog obeys that visual command. THIS IS SIMPLE, people!

A dog that urinates when approached with eye contact, or because it is an unaltered male over the age of 18 months, is NOT a housebreaking problem. The first scenario involves an overly submissive animal that urinates from fear or a very soft temperament. This non-problem can easily be corrected by avoiding addressing this dog in a dominant way. WAIT for the dog to come to YOU. The second scenario can be easily extinguished by NEUTERING the dog. Every intact male dog will lift his leg at least once in a new environment. ANY intact male dog over the age of 18 months considers himself an intact male (forever.) WATCH for the leg lifting and respond to it immediately with a “NYAHHH!” He’ll never do it again and, since he’s been neutered, the “urge” to do it will extinguish within three months.

Remember something, people: The dogs in the kill shelters (oxymoron, kill and shelter, right?) are going to DIE for no reason of their own. THIS is the place to find your dog companion! NOT a breeder; NOT a safe haven; the kill shelter is IT. MOST of the dogs in kill (municipal) shelters are absolutely blameless and wonderful. SOME of them may have small “issues”. So what? ARE YOU PERFECT? If I took YOU home, would I find out the things about you that I don’t like? Damn right I would. Do you deserve to DIE because of them? Heck, no!

You are Human. USE your brain. Do your homework. Give another chance to a dog that’s been dumped by a brainless, feckless and worthless sub-human disguised as a person. You’ll never regret the decision!

Staff: Psych4Dogs@aol.com  

Return to Animals in Print 14 July 2003 Issue

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Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane Ljbeane1@aol.com

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