Throughout the month of December, my school received dozens of inquiries about training for newly adopted dogs.
This was no surprise — numerous adoption promotions and even free adoption events to promote adopting a pet for the holidays have been in full swing lately.
Several people began training with us. However, a surprising number decided that, in the end, the dogs were too much work and found them a home or gave the dogs back to the rescue.
A Dog Is a Responsibility
Our family dog had a litter right before I moved out of my dorm in college and into a new space, so I was able to take 1 of the puppies. A few years later, my parents into a condo, and I took the other 2 dogs.
I kept all 3 dogs when I took a year off during college. I loaded all the necessities (dog beds, bowls, brushes, my stereo and 500 vinyl albums) in my VW van and took off with my pet family for Oregon. It was a little crowded with 3 German shepherds, but I never considered not keeping and caring for all of them.
Sadly, this isn’t the case with many people.
Stop Abusive Training Methods
The past 25 or so years have been revolutionary in the realm of pet care.
We now know that it is much better to teach dogs how to behave right than to correct them into not behaving wrong. We now look for causes of behavior rather than suppress symptoms. But some discoveries might not have helped as much as we hoped.
The Internet has given us so much access to information that it’s often hard to separate the good advice from the terrible suggestions. So many training methods actually yield results that everyone seems to be an expert, even if those methods aren’t the kindest to animals.
We need to do whatever we can to share the message that it is not OK to use aversive methods and pain or fear in the name of dog training.
Placing More Dogs Isn’t the Right Attitude
When I was growing up, our family dog had a few unplanned litters, and we placed the pups in good homes.
My parents always put a price on the puppies — but it wasn’t about the money. “Free to a good home” draws a different crowd, so they asked for $25–$50 dollars in order to screen the serious buyers and know they weren’t making a spur-of-the-moment impulse acquisition.
Free adoption weekends and sending dogs to forever sanctuaries might look good on paper, but it may not be the best future for a dog’s life. If you give a pet a home, it needs to be that pet’s home for life.
Responsible and Fair Animal Control Policies
The government needs to adopt policies and take actions that promote the good treatment of animals. We also must stop shipping dogs out of municipalities just to make the numbers look like we are socially aware and promoting “no-kill” standards.
Cases in point:
- Detroit should have done more to prevent the recent senseless tragedy where a little boy was mauled by 4 dogs who had been reported multiple times in the months before the incident.
- Los Angeles rounds up too many dogs that aren’t a threat to the community and gives too many away that shouldn’t ever be adopted.
In short, we must increase public and government official education so everyone can make better decisions about which dogs to adopt out and which dogs to round up.
If you’re seriously considering bringing a dog into your life, watch this video first:
I have been taking dogs to public parks long before the term “dog park” was ever used. Everyone — those of us with or without dogs — used to share the same park space. Sometimes dogs would trample a picnic or, even worse, topple an unsuspecting toddler.
We should train dogs to the level that non–dog people will appreciate. Letting dogs walk through neighbors’ yards, being obstinate and saying things like “My dog has rights, too” as he chases terrified people will give those of us with dogs a bad name. And letting your dog urinate or defecate in inappropriate areas is just plain rude.
Pets Are a Blessing
Pets are part of our culture and have been for tens of thousands of years.
But our culture has changed along with the environment we live in. Humane care, treatment and regulations must top our values list. We must be advocates for animals because they aren’t in a position to advocate for themselves.
Humane and kind pet policy begins with us.
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