Monday, February 28, 2011

Finding the right "fit"

Every Sunday I make the trek to the Marin Humane Society for flyball practice. Whilst there, I see a host of dogs being walked/exercised by volunteers. Many of these dogs are purebreds surprisingly. I have seen loads of Chihuahuas there, a few Pomeranians, a few Corgis and an Aussie here and there, Labs etc. As I watch these dogs walking I can see the wide array of personalities and breed traits. This of course gets my mind churning and thinking if there are so many dogs of different personalities and so many different breeds to chose from, why do I see dog/owner incompatibility so often?

What do I mean by dog/owner incompatibility? Well take the 80 year old woman that I had in my group training class about 2 years ago with a poodle/terrier mix puppy. Terriers are known for being tenacious dogs and this poor lady had bite wounds all over her frail hands and the 10 pound dog was able to literally pull her around. Over the course of the 6 week class we taught Angel how to not bite human hands and walk on a harness but with the owner's age, Angel wasn't getting enough exercise and started to become a nuisance barker. Other problems ensued, such as playing keep away with items since she knew her owner couldn't catch her and attempting to bolt out open doors since her owner wasn't fast enough with the door. Angel is still with her owner and still a bit of a terror. However I thought to myself back then, why did she get a puppy? If this woman wanted a dog as a companion, why not utilize Senior Dog Rescue (a rescue for older dogs)? The answer is because her neighbor had a "whoops" litter and Angel was just so cute she had to take her home. Angel would have been a better fit for an active family though and a senior dog would have gotten a home. That just isn't how life works sometimes.

The story of Angel hit home for me again about 2 months ago when I had yet another elderly lady with a terrier/pomeranian mix puppy produced on accident by a friend. This lady had even more health issues than Angel's owner and had to sit in a chair for the whole class. Most people with dogs know that training isn't very successful when you are stuck in a chair and are attempting to teach a puppy something new. The owner couldn't even lean over to give the dog a treat! The one upside though is that this lady had 3 very devoted daughters that took turns staying with her and also came to the puppy class. The pup listened marvelously to the daughters, but not the mother (no surprise there). Had this owner gotten an older, trained dog, I am sure she would be much happier.

It isn't just elderly people getting puppies though. I have seen many a family with small children purchase a lab puppy only to re-home it a few weeks later in tears that they just couldnt' do it and had no idea how much work a puppy entailed. Fortunately, those puppies found more compatible homes, but had the prior owners done their research, talked to a breeder or trainer perhaps they would have started with an older dog and not have an "empty" dog nest and upset children.

The moral of the story is there are so many breeds and options (getting an older dog, a puppy, a rescue dog, a trained dog) when getting a dog. I look for personality and life-style of a person/family in reference to the dog's. Environment can play a role, but contrary to popular belief, someone very active living in a townhouse can have a Border Collie *points to self*. Not doing research and getting a dog based on looks alone or a sad story may be the difference between a horrible experience and a match made in heaven.

Musing about dogs

After having a private blog for years I finally decided to take the leap and make a public blog with a very appropriate topic: dogs and dog training!

I have been training dogs for about 7 years now and although I am now a proud mother of an 8 month old human baby, I still find many of my thoughts center around dogs and training. Who can blame me though? It is my job after all, and close to 20 hours a week is devoted to working with other's dogs. Add that to the time I spend with my own dogs (BC's Lex and Lucy) at home plus our flyball extravaganza Sundays, my brain is literally swimming with thoughts about dogs!

I am going to skip the more thorough introduction to myself and direct those who want to know more to my website;

Now onto a "real" post.....