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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You Don't Deserve That Dog

I Wish We Could Save Them All.

I kind of wish people had to pass a test regarding breed knowledge and get a certificate in order to own a dog of any kind. It makes me really sad when I see dogs whose needs are not being met or dogs who are simply lawn ornaments, fed, watered but ultimately ignored and left outside all the time with minimal human interaction. Why bother even having a dog?

Eyes are the windows to the soul. Dante is my gentle boy.
No your dog does not feel like family if they live outside by themselves. They love you but they are not part of the family or else they would be indoors and a part of the group activities even if that involves laying on their bed and watching.

In the past it was popular for families to have a dog to watch the house, guard the property/livestock, and alert the family to visitors. Sure they loved the dog but the dog was a replaceable asset. Over time people have started to get away from the backyard ownership trend but society still has a long way to go. Science has shown that dogs bond better with their families, are more balanced and socialized, and emotionally need the support of a family unit to be happy. Dog's have feelings and emotions just not in the same way as humans.  Professor Gregory Burns - Canine Emotions  They should be respected, and treated in a loving manner. You can't possibly be a dog lover if your choice of training involves abuse.

Humans who shouldn't have dogs:

The Macho Man. My dog is stronger/bigger than your dog.
These are the people who want a Rottie, "Pit Bull" type dog, Doberman, German Shepard, etc.. just because the dog looks scary and makes them feel like a more powerful individual because they own this dog breed. These owners tend to keep the dog in the backyard, these dogs are generally under-socialized because the owner is incapable of walking them, they use tools like prong collars, chokes, and shock collars. These owners participate in aversive training techniques punishing the dog for his bad behavior, and may in fact be physical with their dog: hit, kick, yell curse words when the dog doesn't "behave"..etc.
Lack of socialization, aversive training techniques and abuse can lead some animals to aggression and others to anxiety and major fear regarding humans, their surroundings, and resources.

The In-Denial. My dog doesn't need training.
Don't worry he's friendly! This is the mantra of the dog owner who refuses to take responsibility for the actions of their dog, often allowing their dog to hang out off-leash. These dog owners feel that their dog is a good dog, would never harm anyone or any dog, and any altercation that occurs is 100% not their dog's fault. These dogs have not been properly socialized and may in fact have dog aggression issues that go unsolved. These dogs are often out of control, they rule their home and may show possessive behaviors such as resource guarding and food aggression. They don't respect human space often jumping on unsuspecting humans without mercy, they drag their owners around on a leash if they are wearing one. They may bark incessantly until they are given what they want, and often seem to be overweight due to their humans love for treating them.

This is an owner whose dog is simply an accessory. These dogs are typically jealous and possessive of their human servants, generally small - these dogs also suffer from anxiety, yappiness, and have been known to bite, which is always excused by said owner.
These owners prefer to carry rather than walk the dog, so the dog ends up under exercised, lacking in social skills, and why bother training him when you can just pick him up when he's being naughty?

The Yellers
These are the owners you hear coming. They repeat commands over and over and over...they are rarely physical towards their dog but profanities and the word "No", are common words in their vocabulary. These owners attempt to control their dog through verbal discipline and loud noises. Certain tones used send pets slinking away because they know it's time to go hide from the Yeller.

It's just a dog.
These owners honestly believe that their dog should behave in the manner of a robot. Using aversive techniques because it's the only way their dog can possibly learn a new behavior these owners expect perfect obedience in an instant with no room for error on the behalf of the dog. Most of these dogs that I've met are broken empty shells, excitement is punished, submissive behavior is looked upon with disgust, they are over looked and ignored unless they step out of line.

Dog at Large
This weekend started off with a bang. My hubby came home to announce he was heading back down the street to help corral a lost dog. He explained that some good Samaritans were trying to catch the dog - and the dog clearly did not want to be caught so grabbing him may result in a bite. He wanted to step in and take over the situation to prevent anyone from getting hurt, including the dog.

Well, I couldn't be left out so we grabbed our slip leash, loaded up on treats and went for a walk!

Sure enough he was right where we though he would be. If you can imagine a yellow Rottweiler that is what he looked like. A big male Rottie/Yellow lab mix, he was curious about the people but any approach in his direction caused him to jump backwards fast in an effort to not be caught. The Good Samaritans called Animal Control who was of course not open and wouldn't be until Monday but a police officer was on his way.

Not the actual dog, sadly I did not get a picture.

Hubby started tossing treats at the big boy, talking softly to him and working to develop some trust seeing how close he could get in a positive manner. We were very careful to move slowly so as not to spook him, and watched his body language closely to figure out what kind of  a personality we were dealing with.

What we saw was a hungry dog, he loved the treats and began taking them from my hubby's hand very gently but quick - he did not want to be caught, and showed lots of stress and anxiety. Any movement of the leash made him really nervous so I enlisted the help of some neighbors to use their backyard. We opened the gate and the hubby lured him into the yard with treats so that we could hold onto him and keep him from running up the highway until we could figure out what to do.

This poor guy was clearly not socialized, a bit underweight, and his aversion to humans, human touch, and fear of the leash led us to believe that he may be abused at home, or at least hit/punished by his family. But he had a huge desire to please, and although he was nervous you could see a wonderful personality under the anxiety. He was gentle regarding the food, and never hackled or barked at us.

He started to bond with the hubby who began to use shaping techniques to make him work for treats instead of just feeding him. Within a few minutes of rewards the boy figured out that laying down in front of hubby meant he'd get a treat, as long as the leash stayed out of it he didn't mind being close.

The officer eventually showed up and was happy to let us handle the situation. My hubby was making good progress with the dog so I watched through the fence with the officer and our neighbors whose yard we had trapped the dog in. Thankfully the dog was wearing tags so we could try to reach his family, but unfortunately the dog was not comfortable with being touched.

We had a couple different people suggest grabbing the collar, why not?
Well that is how you get bit and it would be your fault!

When you corner a dog or grab their collar you force them into fight or flight. Some breeds will panic but not bite, other more confident dogs will bite in an effort to escape. I learned this the hard way a year ago by underestimating a small dog - that story HERE - How Not to Handle a Stray/Lost Dog.

Not a "Pit Bull"

As the neighbors were looking at him it was clear he was a mutt but we still had a couple people call him a "pit bull". We quickly nipped that in the bud. Please don't call all mutt's pit bulls! He was a large breed dog but clearly some sort of lab mix and we were pretty positive he had Rottweiler in him based on his body style and giant Rottie type head that is rather distinguishable..

Hubby quickly realized that the leash was just not going to be a good option because he didn't want to damage all the trust he had been building with the dog. After about an hour of conditioning/shaping exercises hubby was able to start touching the dog gently and rewarding him for allowing himself to be touched, but fast movement sent him jumping backwards.

On a good note he was getting very comfortable with everyone around him and didn't seem to mind us watching quietly - especially my hubby, he ran a few zoomies in the backyard, his facial expressions and ears began to relax and when he retreated to a safe distance it wasn't as far and he came back quicker.

Eventually those of us watching moved inside the house and opened the door to the house to see what he'd do. He came in trotted around quickly sniffed all of us and went back outside with hubby. A bit more work but still not grabbing him - hubby was eventually able to read the city license on his collar and the office called it in.

I hate it when I'm right...
Sure enough a very stereotypical owner showed up for his dog. He was wary of talking to the officer, overweight with long grungy hair and beard, not terribly thrilled that we had found his dog, and sure enough his dog regularly escapes his yard. The Macho Man.

On a high note right before he was dragged off by his owner the dog whose name turned out to be Rebel, jumped up on my hubby and gave him a kiss.

We were sad to see him go home, I can only hope our fears are wrong and that they love him.

In the meantime we can offer our help to those having training difficulties, and attempt to educate people regarding responsible dog ownership and breed knowledge. Not every dog is for every person.

Bloghop (1)

More Sources on Dog Emotions:
Dogs Have Feelings Too - Professor Gregory Burns
Huffington Post - Professor Gregory Burns
Do Animals Have Emotions? Of Course They Do! - Marc Bekoff
Dogs Can Be Optimistic or Pessimistic - Professor Mike Mendl


  1. A great post. Unfortunately the ones who need to read it won't and it they did would not recognize themselves. Grrrr!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

    1. I know, GRRRRRR... I just get so frustrated sometimes!

  2. I just read the post you wrote on how you were bitten. Yikes! Sometimes in our wanting to help dogs, common sense can sometimes fly out the window. Thankfully, I've never been bitten - I am probably the most timid of all people when it comes to trying to help stray dogs. Most of them have fled from my attempts - but the few I've been able to help - have been fairly friendly. I once saw a dog that had been hit lying on the side of the road. Whoever hit it didn't bother to stop. She was quite alive though and I carefully, along with another good samaratin - got her into my car and was able to take her to the vet. It was a heart-breaking experience; but I was glad I at least remembered something I had heard about making a makeshift muzzle out of a leash. She wasn't showing signs of aggression (I think her back or legs were broken) but I knew that the additional pain she might feel from being lifted into my car may cause her to lash out. Thankfully, she was docile the whole time (maybe in shock). It's amazing what you remember when dealing with a situation like that. I am so grateful for blogs like yours that provide such helpful information!

    About the only thing that bothers me about helping a stray is the way people assume that it is my dog. The vet office I took her to (the only ones open at that early hour) seemed pretty convinced that she was my dog. I guess because I was so emotional - they assumed she was mine. I tried explaining, but I don't think they believed me. Probably pretty jaded from some horrible things they had seen in the past. It's often the same with Animal Control. They have tried to charge me a fee for dropping off a dog and/or calling them if I see one on the loose, even though I am listed in their database as owning only one dog.

    1. After having a small dog bite down to the bone I can say i've learned my lesson and will definitely henceforth be more careful when attempting to help a dog.
      Like you though most of the lost ones i've seen have just taken off running.

      That poor dog you rescued though! Did she survive? I would have been an emotional mess too, how sad! Making a muzzle out of a leash is definitely a great technique for helping an injured dog.
      Animal Control can be frustrating, sadly I know they are understaffed, under budget and have very little real power. I wish they were better trained and more equipped to handle situations but the fact that they aren't open on weekends is irritating. The officer that showed up regarding the dog had nothing to handle a dog, he said if the dog was friendly he'd put him in his car, but when they can't catch a willingly caught dog all they can do is shoo him away from and out of traffic when people call. A gun, pepper spray, and taser just aren't the right equipment for catching a lost dog. Which is why he was soo happy we had were handling the situation in a safe manner and the dog wasn't in traffic. If we couldn't have reached his family then we would have had to find a way to hold him over the weekend or take him to the animal shelter ourselves. My hubby liked him soo much though that we probably would have kept him at our home and tried to rehome him ourselves.

    2. At the time, I didn't have any money to help the dog and they told me they would most likely end up euthanizing her unless a rescue stepped in. This was years ago before rescues were the force they are now. I made peace with the fact that at least she was going to be humanely euthanized. I never found out what they ended up doing. Once I told them I wasn't able to help financially - they shut me out. If that had happened just a half hour later - the vet office where I took my own dog would have been the one I would have taken her too. As it was, I knew the dog was in bad shape and who knows how long she had been there at the side of the road already. I didn't want to make her wait any longer for help.

      Having volunteered with that same Animal Control office - I know firsthand how understaffed and undereducated they are. So I understand where they are coming from - but just the same - if you are that jaded against all humanity - even those trying to help in some way - maybe it is time to move on.

    3. Very sad but sometimes that has to be done. Too bad the idiot who hit the dog didn't stop to take her into the vet.
      By the way...what happened to your blog? I miss seeing Blueberry's handsome face. :-)

    4. I took the blog off public view. I have blogger burnout and am not quite sure if I will return or not. Rest assured, Blueberry and I are doing well and everything is status quo. :)

    5. Ok, just wanted to make sure! :-)

  3. Great post! I've come across so many people who should not have dogs. It's so depressing. :(

    1. Thank you, I was pretty bummed about sending him home.

  4. What a wonderful, wonderful post! It goes to show that patience & kindness go so much further than yelling, dragging, and punishing harshly. I completely agree with you that all dog owners should have to pass some kind of test in which they demonstrate their dog knowledge.

    1. Thanks! We were pretty happy for the chance to work with Rebel, it was a great way to show our neighbors that patience pays off and big dogs aren't scary. :-)

  5. This is a great post, and every point was nailed perfectly. I see owners every now and then like that in town here. Even recently, a female bully mix that looked like she just had puppies, tied outside of a McDonalds. I could only sigh.

    I can only hope for the best for Rebel.

  6. BRAVO!!! This story touches my heart and although there is sadness in it, it is a happy and inspiring story because I know that REBEL got to experience unconditional love at least for a short while. Impressive work by "Hubby" and fantastic write up by "Wifey". Thank you all who helped Rebel safely return to his owner.
    Anytime a dog is loose, there is the risk of tragically being hit by a car. Anyone who helps to bring a loose dog to safety is in my eyes truly saving a life.
    Hopefully the owner has learned something and will provide a better life. Some people are truly ignorant yet have the potential to at least be better and more loving owners. But it takes education and that is what makes this post inspiring and heartfelt to me.
    Thank you all who selflessly helped this scared lost dog live another day. And my prayers go out to Rebel that he may have a brighter future and that his owner can become a person worthy of the unconditional love that dogs so graciously give.

    1. Thanks Jeremy!
      I would love to help his owner, if I see him again maybe we'll try that method but I think he was a bit put off by the cop so he left pretty fast with Rebel.

  7. Regarding the initial point about testing - I think it would be ideal for humans to have a course in understanding *dogs* (non-breed-specific), about the kinds of temperaments they will come across and what it's like to have one in the household, their needs, etc. This would address the many great points you raise, and then help them select a good dog for them regardless of breed.

    As much as I would love this, it would only end up in fewer dogs being adopted and more people going to breeders, and many getting defensive as a result. I believe that we can only hope that shelters and rescues will get better at really effective ways of approaching the people they feel don't understand dogs well or have outdated practices (many of which are simply influenced by how they were raised, NOT because they are bad people... they've just been raised to think that's what having a dog entails). It's a fine line between being effective and making a person defensive.

    I'm one of the most devoted kinda people when it comes to dogs, and have really felt some rescues go way too far with some of this stuff. But as always, there's an effective way of meeting a real need.

    1. I see your point, and I love the idea of a basic dog behavior course that covers temperaments and breeds etc..that would really help people to make educated decisions.
      And yes some rescues do go over the top but at the same time I can understand why, but it would be nice if they maybe offered to help a family integrate a dog in some cases.


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