Wednesday, October 8, 2014

There's a reason...

I didn't grow up with dogs, although I had always wanted one.  One of my first memories is of when I was 3 or 4 years old and sitting on the lap of my grandmother singing a made-up song about a dog.  I had to wait until I was an adult to get my first dog, a sheltie that I purchased from a breeder.

Not knowing anything about dogs, of course I thought I was very knowledgeable.  I wanted to get a purebred because since I was getting a puppy I needed to know it would grow up to be a small dog appropriate for apartment living.  And I was getting a puppy so that I could raise it to be the dog I wanted.  I was so naive.

I was shocked when my puppy ended up pushing my buttons, and behaving in ways I didn't know how to deal with.  I look back at that time with amusement, and yet I think it's a very common situation that most new dog owners go through. 

"There's a reason they gave her up", someone recently told me as they were relating some of the behavior problems a recently adopted dog was giving a mutual friend of ours.  "People don't give up a good dog...", she continued.

Unfortunately the belief that all animals at rescues and shelters have serious behavior or temperament issues is still prevalent.  People who aren't "in the business" can't comprehend that someone would give up a well behaved pet or a pet with a good temperament.   While I wouldn't have dreamed of giving Chester up, many people in the same situation I was in do.  Sometimes it's because their lives are too busy and they don't have time to deal with an ill-mannered, needing to be trained dog.  Sometimes it's because they don't have the money or don't want to spend money on attending training classes. 

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of reasons that people surrender or rehome dogs that have nothing to do with serious behavior problems.  Working at a shelter I know that common reasons are allergies, landlord issues, the owner has passed away, not enough time, not enough money, etc.

While it is true that most dogs in shelters haven't had any training, it's generally a matter of needing family manners training and easily resolved.  This is the same type of training that anyone getting a puppy should commit to.  In some ways training an older dog is easier because they've got better bladder and bowel control, have gotten through much of their intense chewing phase, and  have a longer attention span.

I made plenty of mistakes raising Chester, but I stood by him until his death at the age of eleven.  Chester helped me as I learned about dog training, behavior and became invested in animal welfare.  But he also taught me that had I not stuck with him, had I turned him into a shelter he would have been a really great dog that needed a home.  Just like most dogs in shelters and rescues.

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