There have been a number of Posts recently that address the “Adopt don’t shop” mantra, or have otherwise promoted the humane value in adopting from a shelter. A lot of people are instinctively wary of adopting a rescued dog because of a perception that it will be trouble. To be realistic, it could be trouble… as could any dog coming from a breeder or some other source.
We have probably all experienced nice well-balanced and stable families, that have had a child go totally “off the rails”! There is no reason to expect dogs to be any different. A specific breed will give you its potential traits but, as with children, there are no guarantees.
Ray had a number of issues which the shelter advised us about prior to adopting him (would another seller be as honest?), and we have certainly put a lot of time and effort into helping him adapt to a home environment. His willingness to respond to training has made it all worthwhile however, it became very clear to me that there is no such thing as effective intuitive training.
One major issue with Ray was his lunge and bark routine when other dogs came close. We decided that we needed the benefit of experience and contacted a trainer who was recommended to us, which resulted in enrolling Ray in a special program. The following is an excerpt from my book about Ray (“Who Said I was up for Adoption?”) and covers the program designed to help dogs become more comfortable with other dogs.
The instructor (using a dog especially brought in to assist) monitored Ray for body language signals and was then able to explain to us what to look for when he noticed another dog, but before he prepared himself to react. It was critical for us to understand his body language because we needed to give him a treat after he had seen the other dog, but before he tensed up ready to react. In addition to keeping his stress level down, we clearly did not want to inadvertently reward him for antisocial behaviour! Ray’s body language was a slight turn of his head towards us. This was probably him looking to us for direction and, in the absence of such direction, was going to take charge of the situation himself! Just a slight turn of his head and we were ready with the treats!
Over the course of a number of training sessions, we were able to keep gradually reducing his distance from the other dog as he became more comfortable and no longer saw the other dog as a threat. By the end of the program Ray had learned to appropriately greet another dog in a socially acceptable manner, which was a significant step forward for him.
Since the book was published, Ray has made steady progress and is now “Mr Social” when we take him downtown. People are always approaching him because he has such a friendly face, and he happily approaches them because they may have treats for him. One of our standard comments to each other when we are out with Ray is “He made his (her) day!” as we see a person pass with a big smile on their face after having looked at our beloved Ray.
All dogs are work, as are all children, but the rewards are incredible.
Adopt from a shelter… and you will not be paying into a profit making business.
Adopt from a shelter… and you will almost certainly have access to their expertise, and probably at no cost.
Adopt from a shelter, and you will be financially supporting their operations.
Adopt from a shelter, and you will be freeing up space for another poor unfortunate dog.
Finally, I have heard many complaints about the cost of trainers but, if you really want a dog in your life, then you must be prepared to look after it responsibly which could well dictate a training program. We would never have known that Ray’s slight head turn was such a critical part of his body language without professional help. I would suggest that if the cost of a trainer is an issue, then perhaps do not adopt a dog until such time as your circumstances change. The last thing you would hopefully want, is for your dog to find itself back in the shelter.
Ray’s book is available direct from Friesen Press (friesenpress.com), amazon.com, and all other on-line book retailers.
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