How dogs end up in shelters by no fault of their own.
Christmas is coming and Maggie, my 16 year old daughter always wanted a dog. She really likes Border Collies as she has seen them doing all sorts of tricks. They are also so cute when they are puppies. I will spoil my daughter and get her a purebred Border Collie puppy from a breeder I heard of on a farm. His Collies should be so clever as he uses his dogs for working his sheep and he is not charging a fortune. I will phone him and order her the puppy.
Christmas day arrives and I cannot wait to see my little girl’s face when I give her the puppy. She is going to be so happy. The breeder did say the puppy is a little young to take away from the mother but I begged him and he eventually gave in. He is such a great guy. And sure enough on the day she started crying when I gave her the six weeks old puppy. She is just so cute and cuddly. She immediately picks her up and off she goes to show all her friends her new gift. She names the puppy Amy and from that day Amy is everywhere that Maggie goes and actually most of the times in her arms. Amy is still very small and tends to have little accidents in the house but I am sure it will come right by itself. She will eventually learn to do her business outside I am sure. For now Maggie must just clean up after Amie so it’s all good right?
Today is now five weeks later and Maggie must go back to school. But she is not really worried, her friends dogs stays alone at home all the time, so Amy would be ok. She is still a puppy now 11 weeks old. She will be locked inside the house so she will be safe from everything. What could possibly go wrong?
That day when Maggie returned she got a big surprise. The puppy started chewing on the furniture and left a mess on the carpet. Why the carpet for heaven’s sake? She did put potty training pads out in the corner. Why did she not use that? Then later that day the neighbour knocked on the door. He is quite upset as he is working night duty and could not sleep because the puppy made too much noise and was yelping and barking all the time while Maggie was away. No this behaviour is unacceptable. BAD DOG!!!! I am really angry with you. You were not supposed to do any of this. That is it, no more, tomorrow you are staying outside!
The next day Amy was left outside. We all left, Maggie off to school and I off to work. An hour later I receive a phone call from my neighbour. Amy is barking non-stop. I need to do something or else he is going to report me. So back home I go and the only solution I can think of, I am going to lock Amy up in the garage. Surely she cannot do too much damage there. Boy was I wrong. When I got back Amy had chewed all my electric wiring of my power tools. And she has made a mess all over the place. No it cannot go on like this; we need to do something to sort this dog out. I will ask on facebook for advice on how I am going to get this dog to behave. Somebody will give me advice.
The next day sure enough I got a reply from my facebook post. A guy suggested I use a bark collar on my puppy. It will stop him from barking so he can stay outside from now on. Maggie also doesn’t seem to be that interested in Amy anymore and just take her for walks now and again. I will go and buy that bark collar now, I will show Amy who is the boss around here. I watched a tv program on dogs and that very well trainer said that I need to dominate my dog. Amy is a Bad dog!!!
It is now two weeks later. Amy stopped barking sure enough but somehow she seems a bit different. The happy puppy is now looking a bit scared of me. I wonder why? I did not do anything to her. Oh well it must just be a phase she is going through. It will come right I am sure. I will just leave her alone. She is behaving now by not barking so I am happy. Good dog!
Another two weeks has gone. I am on my way home from work and just happy the day is over. It has been a horrible day at work. All I want to do is sit down and relax with a beer in my hand. I park my car and walk through the front gate and what do I see. OH NO!! My garden has been destroyed. All my flowers are all over the lawn and my whole lawn is full of holes. AMY COME HERE!! WHAT IS THIS!!! YOU HORRIBLE HORRIBLE BAD DOG!!!! I put her nose into a few holes and smack her bum. That will teach her to dig in my garden. I will ask for further advice on facebook. This digging is not acceptable. The next day I got brilliant advice from another owner. He suggests an electric invisible fence. WOW, that is brilliant… if Amy gets near my flowers now she will get a shock. That will teach her a lesson. Horrible bad dog!!! The next day however when I got home she dug new holes all over my lawn. Now what must I do. Wait, I will ask on facebook again.
The next day, wow I received a message from a trainer. He suggested the dog must get lots of exercise. Wow I am going to try that. I wanted to start walking anyway so I will take Amy for a walk from tomorrow. Maggie is too busy these days and really do not have time for Amy. I fetch the leash and Amy at first does not want to come to me. I really had to shout at her to get her to come to me. After what felt like half an hour Amy slowly starts crawling to me, tail tugged in and as soon as she reaches me she rolls over on her back. BAD BAD DOG!!! You should come if I call you. We are going for a walk now. Out the gate I experience the worst walk of my life. Amy pulls me around on that leash it is not funny. As another dog approached Amy just wanted to go for the approaching dog. I cannot allow Amy to bite that dog, AMY COME HERE!!! BAD DOG!!! All I can do is jerk her on leash to pull her back to me. No, Amy does not have any manners. I will rather take her to a fenced off field nearby. I will let her off leash there so she can do whatever she wants. Arriving at the field Amy pulls me inside the gate and I cannot wait to loosen her leash, this pulling is really making me tired. Off you go Amy, go play.
Twenty minutes later it is time to go home. Come Amy, we must go now. AMY!!! COME!!!!! AMY COME BEFORE I SMACK YOU *&**%% DOG!!!! Eventually Amy come close enough so I can grab her collar and OUCH!!! You Stupid Dog, you just bit me. I will show you!!!!! I grab her collar and put the leash back on. Now I will show you!!!! Now I jerk her around on her leash… I will show you who the boss is!!!!
Walking back home is pretty much the same with Amy pulling on the leash and barking at everything. No, this walking her is not going to work out. Amy must stay at home. She is really a BAD DOG!!!!.
Another week has passed and I am at work. My cell phone rings. I must come home immediately; Amy has just bitten the neighbour. What on earth? She has never bitten anybody. At hospital my neighbour must get stitches. It is a bad bite on his arm. He said that he just saw Amy near my plants again and thought it good to just take her away from it and back onto the lawn. He grabbed Amy by the Collar and all of a sudden Amy just lost it and bit him. Out of the blue? I am shocked. No, Amy is now becoming a nuisance. I must get rid of that dog. I will take her to the pound tomorrow. That dog is impossible to control. That bloody breeder!!!!!
Does this sound familiar? Or some of it at least? This is how many dogs’ lands up in shelters. So what went wrong? Well pretty much everything from the owners side. Let me explain where it all started.
- Taking a puppy away from the mother and siblings at a very young age will cause problems later in life. The mother teaches the puppy how to be a dog and how to behave. She will reprimand the puppy for misbehaving in a language that the puppy will understand without hurting it. Also things like bite inhibition are taught at that stage. Puppies have very sharp teeth and it really hurts when they bite. The reason for this is that when a puppy bites and hurts a sibling, it will yelp and the puppy will realise that he bit too hard. Next time at play he will bite a bit softer and that is how bite inhibition is taught between dogs. Puppies should not be taken away from the Mother before 8 weeks of age.
- People must realise that training dogs takes hard work and lots of time and patience. To take on a Border Collie puppy for instance without researching the breed and talking to other owners is a really bad idea. This breed needs lots of mental and physical stimulation and that is why they excel in dog sports like Agility. To train a Border Collie to a competitive Agility dog can take as long as two years. That is what people do not realise. You need to be dedicated and if you are, you will have the most fun possible with your dog. Other breeds were bred for different purposes so it is just so necessary to do proper research before getting a dog.
- Dogs as gifts. Maggie was 16 when she got the puppy. In two years’ time Maggie is off to University or on a gap year overseas. A dog is a 10 to 16 year commitment. Take that into consideration before getting a puppy as a gift.
- When you get a puppy, it must spend time alone. Crate training a puppy is very important. It must be taught that it is ok and good to be alone at times. Leave it alone for maybe half an hour to an hour with a stuffed chew toy like a kong. This will prevent conditions like separation anxiety as well. A dog that is busy with a chew toy it loves will not bark or yelp. Make every crate encounter a pleasant experience for your puppy.
- Toilets train your puppy. Once a dog has eliminated indoors, chances are very high that it will happen again. Once the urine smell is in a carpet or on furniture the dog will most probably urinate in that spot again. Punishing a dog for urinating indoors is not a remedy either. All you might teach the dog is that he must only urinate in his favourite spot indoors when you are not there. Take your puppy out after meals and stick around until he urinates of defecates. Reward him for doing it outdoors. You can even start putting a cue to it, go wee and good girl if she obliges. Take your dog out after each meal. Also every two hours after that. It will only take a few days and your dog will stop messing in the house and will actually let you know when she wants to go outside and do her business. Two weeks of doing this and you will have a dog that is potty trained for life. We tend to take behaviours we like for granted and make a big fuss over what we don’t want. It should actually be exactly the opposite. We need to reward the dog for what she is doing right, and although we are unhappy about a puddle in the kitchen, we should just clean it up. Pushing her nose into a puddle will not help and might even damage the bond you have with your dog.
- Asking for advice on social media. If you are sick you go and see a doctor. If your daughter goes into a rebellious phase you go and see a psychiatrist. What makes people believe that the best advice they possibly can get for problem behaviours would be from a stranger you do not know on social media? If you need advice go and speak to an experienced dog trainer or a dog behaviourist.
- Electric collars and E-fencing. Why do you think the dog bit my neighbour in the story? Did you notice that I installed an e-fence around my garden? Remember dogs learn by making associations also called classical conditioning. That is how dogs are trained. By rewarding a dog for a specific behaviour it will increase the probability that the behaviour will be repeated. Like us, dogs will repeat activities they like. By rewarding a dog with a nice treat, we make certain experiences we want the dog to do fun in order for him to repeat it. Taking that in mind do you think a dog likes to be shocked? Of course not. My neighbour took my dog back to the grass area and past the e-fencing border. There my neighbour had his hands on my dog and my dog got a shock. Immediately the dog reacted. I would have done exactly the same. In this process it is very likely that my dog made a new association with my neighbour as well. This time a negative association. When this guy touches me I get a shock. I don’t like this guy anymore and I must keep him away from me. I will show him teeth and growl at him next time he comes close and if he does not back up I will have to bite him again. Is this really the dog’s fault?
- Pulling on leash. Why do dogs pull on leash do you think? A simple reason is that there are many distractions out there. Dogs want to go and sniff a tree or smell the grass. They might see a bird or a cat in the distance and wants to go chase it. If you think about it, we on the other side of a leash are really boring. All the action is away from us. Why on earth would he choose to be next to me rather than chasing the cat across the street? We must teach a dog to want to be near us. To the dog we must be more interesting than anything he possibly can see or hear around us. That we do by rewarding the dog with food for being near us. Dogs really loves a liver treat, so we teach him to be near us by constantly rewarding him for not running off or pulling on leash. That should have been done in the puppy phase but it can be done at any age. Old dogs can be taught anything you teach a puppy, it will just take a little longer. Another big mistake I made in the story was to let her pull me into the park and releasing her. I gave her the biggest reward I possibly could for pulling me and acting like a jerk, I gave her freedom. Next time she will pull a little harder. What should I have done? I should have made her sit in front of me, loose leash and rewarded her before letting her go and run around.
- When people start getting things wrong they really messes up. In this story I let the dog off leash in the park. I called it back and although after a few times of calling it eventually did come back. What did I do? I gave it a BAD DOG!!! What exactly did I really do? I punished the dog for coming back to me. Do you think next time the dog will come running back? Next time it will take probably a bit longer until one day he would not want to come back to me at all. What should I have done? I should have rewarded the dog for coming back to me. He must want to come running when I call so rewarding him would have been the right thing to do.
- The dog just bit me out of the blue. Really? Why what happened? I just took the dog by the collar away from the plants. Will that cause a bite or a reaction? In most likelihood not a chance. But pair that scenario with and electric shock it probably will bite. Dogs communicate by body language. They cannot speak English or Afrikaans but they do speak to us IF we know how to listen. A dog normally will give clear signals if he is not happy. Dogs can only do two things in situations you put them in, they can flee or fight. They do not have any other options. If you constrain a dog he cannot flee, what do you expect him to do next? Yes he will fight in the only way he can, with his teeth. Make a point of learning about your dog’s language. Respect him and if you see he is uncomfortable in a situation give him space. It is for your safety as well as his.
- Some people still believes the old story that you must be your dog’s pack leader and you must dominate your dog. The alpha myth is everywhere. While not all the sites are about dominating your dog, there are literally millions of resources out there – websites, books, blogs, television shows, veterinarians, trainers and behavior professionals – instructing you to use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them. The erroneous approach to canine social behavior known as dominance theory (two million-plus Google hits) is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel, in which the scientist concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, and the winner is the alpha wolf. What we know now, thanks to Mech and others, is that in the wild, a wolf pack is a family, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally two or three families may group together. As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack; the only long-term members of the group are the breeding pair. By contrast, in captivity unrelated wolves are forced to live together for many years, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack. Inter species domination also does not even exist. Unfortunately for dogs, a misdiagnosis of their behavior problems as dominance-related usually leads to the worst-case scenario. The traditionally-prescribed behavior modification techniques designed to prevent dogs from ‘raising status’ over their owners usually include punishment, intimidation, and fear—precisely the opposite of what dogs really need in order to overcome most behavioral issues.
My point is, although this is a very short story you can see how many mistakes I made. Whose fault is it that all this happened? I just got myself to blame for all that went wrong. As you can see a little thing can escalate and this dog by one year of age landed up in a shelter. The probability of it getting re homed is very remote as well. Why? She was never house trained. She was never trained to work with sheep. She was never trained for anything. She was not socialised with cats or other animals so she would be a problem on a farm. She was never house trained so she would be a problem in town. Where will this young dog end up? Euthanized! Killed because of me!
If you have a problem with any dog or animal for that matter, don’t wait until it gets out of hand. For heaven’s sake don’t take advice from people on social media. Go and speak to a professional and do some research on how to care for the animal. If you do that then you are a responsible owner.
For advice feel free to visit our facebook page rehabdogworks or visit our website rehabdogworks.com
The Dominance Theory Dr Sophia Yin
The Truth about Doninance Victoria Stilwell