This sweetheart from last week's Intake is the picture of innocence, and his need for a new home has nothing to do with bad behavior. However, a number of the dogs brought to our rescue this month were there because the owner couldn't manage the dog's behavior. This is an unfortunate but common refrain heard at shelters and rescue organizations everywhere.
My role as Intake photographer keeps me busy, and I generally talk with each dog's person only long enough to get a brief description for the website. Last week I spent a little more time with one woman. Her dog was big, strong, and difficult to manage, at one point dragging us both across the floor as it tried to greet another dog. But I was struck at how when instructed to "sit!" he immediately did so, looking eagerly and expectantly into her eyes for direction. That dog was an excellent candidate for training. After a brief internal debate, I shared my observation, along with a personal story about Lady and the benefits that both she and I got from training. I'm always cautious about offering advice at Intake. If the person is relinquishing a beloved pet due to some complicated, painful circumstance, I don't want to make him or her feel worse. This woman listened but did not respond, and I quickly moved on to the next client. Over the weekend, however, I was surprised to receive an email from her asking for the name and number of the trainer I'd used. Yaaay!
Behavior management with a challenging dog is hard work. Even basic obedience training takes a commitment of time and effort. You have to carve out time for the classes, and practice at home. But no training at all is even harder. I've never understood when people choose to deal with a lifetime of irritating dog behavior rather than invest a little time in training during the early years.
I got a kick out of reading all the comments on my last post. As I read your blogs week after week, it never occurs to me that any of your adorable dogs ever misbehave! I particularly loved the image of the little girl happily declaring "Oh look, Mr. B and Miss M from Two Pitties In the City!" and then - BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! That's too funny. I can totally see Lady doing something like that.
One of our readers mentioned the Gentle Leader. Much to Lady's chagrin, that is the collar I use with her. She's a serious Drama Queen about the indignity of having to wear it, but it works. We tried the Easy Walk Harness and the New Trix collar, but the Gentle Leader worked best. Another tool in our bag of tricks is DAP spray, which contains a pheromone that mimics the mother dog's scent. It presumably reminds your dog of being a puppy, all cozy and safe with mom. Hard to know for sure whether it makes a difference, but I like spraying some on a bandanna for Lady if we're likely to encounter a high stress situation. I'm pretty sure it helps me, if not her. I walk along feeling cozy and content despite any unfortunate barking outbursts. Hey, whatever works, right? ;)