Recall Retraining Strategy: Some Dos and Don’ts

How to re-build your recall – my top tips

DO: Keep using treats

Some people think they only need to use treats when their puppy is little.  Why?  I still like chocolate and I’m 55 years old!  If you asked me to do something and offered me chocolate I would DEFINITELY do it!  Sunny will always come back to me, no matter whom I call, just in case I feel like giving her a sweetie.  Well of course I do!  She’s 11 years old but if she comes when I call, she deserves a sweetie.  Of course it’s not very big, but so what?

DON’T: Use rubbish treats

The one in my photo here might not look very exciting but my girls like them.  If they weren’t brilliant at coming back and/or didn’t think much of these treats, I would use something else.

Top treats can include:

  • cheese – mild cheddar is not too crumbly, nice and cheap.  Cut into small cubes
  • sausage – ordinary cooked sausage, cut small
  • frankfurters – I slice up quite finely and then cook in the oven for a while. This dries them out so them are easier to handle and last longer
  • liver cake – if you must.  I never do, but people swear by it: liver cake recipe

Whatever you use, it should actually be a reward for your dog.

DO: Be exciting

Why exactly would I return to you if you are boring?  What I am doing over here is much more interesting.  Smells!  Dogs!  Rabbits!  What are you offering?  Hmm, no thanks.

You must be AMAZING!  Look what I’ve got!  Look at my toy!  Do you want it?  Come and get it!  Here it is.. here… or here…

DON’T: Shout at your dog

It’s really not a good idea.  They may never get over it.  Dogs are sensitive creatures; they do not like it when you are unhappy.  If you have several dogs and children, try shouting at one of them (or your other half, even better). What happens?  Everyone disappears!

Yes I know it’s incredibly annoying when they don’t come, but were you exciting?  Did you have yummy sweeties?  Did you offer to play?  Or have a toy?  No?  Well that’s your own fault then.

I’m not even going to mention any kind of physical reprimand.  All that does is make your dog hate you.  Not a top plan.

DON’T: Chase your dog

What a brilliant game that is for your dog!  Yay!  Chase me, chase me!  You can’t catch me though, obviously.  Can you hear your dog laughing?  I can.  Hilarious.

DO: Run away from your dog

Turn and leg it.  Seriously.  This is the time to get on a turn of speed.  And if you can add some excited shouting, such as “Come and see what I’ve got!”  “Sweeties!”  Then you might get their interest.  This is much more likely to work than standing still.  Or chasing them.

DON’T: Wait until the end of the walk to call them back

It’s been a lovely walk but now it’s the end.  Oh you’re not tired and you don’t want to go home yet?  Well too bad, I’m in charge.  Or am I?  When I’m walking the puppy on her own, I might call her back to me twenty times during a 20 minute walk.  These days, walking her with the pack, I only call her back to me 10 times per walk.  “Ounce come”.  Be excited to see her.  Give her some praise.  Feed her a sweetie or two.  Every day, every walk.  She automatically comes to me at the end of the walk.  It’s no big deal.

DO: Use a clear, simple command

“Ounce come”.  Don’t stand still repeating the dog’s name over and over again.  You sound like a wally.  (Unlike when you are running away, shrieking in excitement, when you look AND sound like a wally.)   The more often you say the dog’s name, the less likely they are to wonder what you want.  Be clear, be positive, be firm (but not boring).

recall tips

Recall Fail – When the puppy doesn’t come back

Dog Doc Question 14: What happens when the puppy stops coming back?

Oops.  Ounce is nearly 7 months old now and this is often when the trouble starts.  She is more or less fully grown (although she will fill out and might creep up a bit more in height).  She is also becoming more mature, which mainly means that she is a bit like a teenager; she thinks she knows best!

Collies are excellent at anticipation – they believe they know what you are going to do before you do.  This is what makes them so great for herding, as they can think like the shepherd and anticipate what the sheep will do.  However, it is a bit of a nightmare for us as we have to try and stop them rushing off.  Basically, she realised we were about to cross the road so ran over it, giving me a heart attack.  I then had to call her back over it so that I could get them all together and make them wait, crossing in a controlled manner.  The road is only 3m wide at that point and it’s pretty quiet, but of course I want to manage it.

I called her back, got her to me and then told her off for running away. Big mistake.  Huge.  She then gave me a filthy look when I called her again, a few minutes later.  She was then saying to me “You told me off, so I am NEVER coming back to you again.”  Lovely.

I spent the next hour trying to re-train the recall, practically from scratch.  I had to turn away from Ounce, with the other dogs on lead and walk away, so that she would follow.  I had to entice her nearer to me and then be actually thrilled that she had come back to me (this is extremely difficult to do when you basically want to kill them).  I had to persevere, leaving her for a few minutes then trying again, repeating the whole rigmarole with the other dogs being called in and rewarded, then put on lead, then a change of direction, then being thrilled that the pup came back.

What a palaver.  Of course it was all my own fault.  You should never call your puppy and then be cross with it.  Even just a cross tone of voice is enough to undo all your hard work.  If she ran across the road then it was my fault.  I have to anticipate that she will anticipate and make sure that I either put her on the lead, or convince her I am going a different way until I know it is safe.

What have I learned?

Lesson learned:  ALWAYS PRAISE THE PUPPY!  Border Collies in particular have what is referred to as ‘poor bounce back’ which means they are unforgiving; you tell me off and I will hate you forever.

Fortunately for me she has forgiven me and today was able to come for a sweetie every time, even with the others all running about.  I’m lucky that I spent so long working with her before I put her in the pack and that I still spend time training her on her own.  Very often when they are in a pack they stop looking at you and just refer to the next one up, which means you have very little chance of getting them back.

When should they go off lead?

I saw this as a question on a social media group for Border Collie owners.  In light of what I have said above, you might think that it is better to wait until they are older before you let them off lead at all. WRONG!  You absolutely MUST let your puppy off lead from day 1 of their walks and then work like crazy on the recall. Have a look at Ounce on her first walk – Puppy’s first walk (so sweet!).  I can’t imagine starting that process so easily with an adult (or teenage) dog, can you?  At the very least, I would have to have a long line.

This is basically like a piece of rope around twenty feet long.  You put the puppy on one end and stand on the other end.  Let him go off for a wander and then call him back after a few minutes.  If he doesn’t respond, give a gentle tug on the line to attract his notice, then call and reward.  Do NOT pull him back to you – he has to want to come back.  The line is for your security, that’s all.  Please DO NOT chase your dog, you will not teach him to come back to you that way!  He must want to come back to you on his own.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Puppy Buying – A Checklist for New Owners

Dog Doc Question 13:  What should you consider when buying a puppy?

How do you choose the right dog for you? I was watching a drama on TV last night where a couple who worked long hours decided to get their daughter a dog because she had been pestering for one for ages.  They wanted to cheer her up, so they found an advert for a dog that someone didn’t want any more.  They went into the house, chatted to the man for a few minutes, then the dog appeared and they told the girl she could have it.  Then they took it home.  Is this the correct way to buy a dog, do you think?

Step 1: Assess your current life

Think about your lifestyle, as it is now.  It’s no good thinking you would like to get a dog so you can go on long walks, if you don’t ever go on long walks now.  You must like walking first.  You might not go hiking in the hills on a daily basis, but you should at least prefer being out to watching TV and you should have some level of fitness.  You also need to be able to cope with a bit of rain, or wind, or sleet, or snow. Dogs don’t care about the weather, but they will be very disappointed if you don’t take them out for a walk every day.

If you work full time, what provision are you prepared to make for your dog? Can you take your dog with you to work?  Are you prepared to pay someone to come in and spend time with your dog and/or walk them for you?  Or do you have a friend, neighbour or family member you can persuade to have your dog for some of the time?

Do you currently have spare time?  Time when you are sitting around doing nothing much?  Or are you able to give up something you currently do?  Dogs take time, no matter how good they are.  I’d say at least 1-2 hours per day, EVERY DAY.

What about holidays?  Where do you like to go?  How long for, abroad or in the UK?  What will you do with a dog when you go away?  Of course there are kennels, but you might not want your dog shut in a cage for a fortnight.  There are good boarding places available, but this costs more and they have less availability.  Again, friends and family can be invaluable, but don’t make assumptions, discuss it with them.

Step 2: Assess what kind of dog you would like

There are plenty of great tools to help you with this.  The absolutely best thing to do is to go to Crufts Dog Show and visit the hall with the Discover Dogs at Crufts display.  They basically have every dog breed you can imagine on display, with real life examples of the dog for you to see and usually touch.  There will be a breeder there, willing to talk to you about their dog and why it is wonderful.  You can easily compare all the different types of dog.  Alternatively, go to the Discover Dogs Show Event in London, in November.

These days of course most people want a ‘designer dog’.  This means a crossbreed, or mongrel.  It is fashionable to give these dogs new names, to demonstrate that they have been purposefully ‘created’ rather than just randomly allowed to happen.  Most of these have ‘poo’ in the name, because they are a poodle crossed with something else.  BUYER BEWARE: Just because it has a funny name does NOT mean it will be an ideal dog for you.  I’ve already talked about some of the health issues in this article Crossbreeds and health

One way to choose the right breed for you is to go through a questionnaire, such as the Find A Dog one the KC website.  I don’t think these are perfect, as I can’t get it to select Border Collie for me!  Perhaps the best thing is to choose a breed based on a dog you know.

Step 3: Find a Breeder

I’ve already talked about this at great length, so won’t be boring about it now.  Look at the KC website and contact all the Assured Breeders  then apply to be on their waiting lists.  NB: Be prepared to WAIT FOR YOUR PUPPY.  It’s not a toy, it takes time to produce a dog.

Here’s a quick reminder of some of the questions to ask your breeder:

  1.  How many dogs do you have?  Can I see them?  Where do they live?  Good breeders might have a number of dogs, but they will be part of the family.  They might spend some time each day in crates or runs, but should be in the house for most of the time.
  2.  How many litters do you have per year?  How many does each dog have?    How old are they when they have the first litter?  And the last?  A litter of puppies is extremely time consuming (or should be!) So the more litters you have, the harder it is to spend time cuddling the pups.  Dogs should have no more than 4 litters each, between the ages of two and eight.
  3.  Who is the sire?  Why was he chosen? How closely related is he to the mother of the litter?  What is the in-breeding coefficient? Stud dogs should be from good lines, fully health tested and with a good temperament.  They should be similar in breeding to the bitch without being too closely related.
  4. What health tests have the parents had?  Can I have copies of these test certificates?  If the correct tests have been done for the breed, copies of these tests should be given to you as part of your puppy pack.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with the following:

  • choosing a breed
  • finding a breeder
  • checking the health of the parents
  • helping you check the health of your puppy.

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

When to neuter your dog?

What is the best age to neuter a dog?

Unfortunately, this is not a simple question and as with so many aspects of dog ownership, it is subject to fashion and cultural context.  When I was growing up, I don’t think dogs were routinely neutered; it was more often carried out when a dog was becoming a problem.  Male dogs were often allowed to roam the streets, looking for a mate and puppies were very often produced through a neighbour’s dog appearing in a garden one day. Of course these things do still happen, but happily we are inching forwards into a culture where responsible dog ownership is becoming more commonplace.In the past, dog owners who were being responsible would whip their puppy off to the vet’s to be neutered almost as soon as it was brought home.  When I got my first puppy, in 1987, it was expected that he would be castrated at six months, so that his behaviour would remain more manageable.  He still cocked his leg and enjoyed playing around with Sunny when she was in season, but he didn’t hump your leg, which was good and he didn’t try to go off roaming the neighbourhood.

More recently, we are finding that it is good to allow dogs to reach full maturity before they are neutered, both male and female.  If you search online, you will find articles such as this one from the Blue Cross neutering-your-dog which say that there are a number of health benefits to neutering early, such as reducing the chances of cancers.   However, other articles cite the benefits of neutering later: “When a dog’s testes or ovaries are removed, the production of hormones is interrupted, which affects bone growth. Because the bone growth plates may close earlier in dogs neutered young, orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears may result. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, further stressing the joints. But neutering does not equal obesity. It’s more difficult to keep neutered dogs in shape, but it can be done.” taken from when-to-spay-neuter-your-dog

Personally, I think it does come down to good management.  If you feel that you will struggle to cope with an unneutered dog, get it done from the age of six months.  If you can manage for a while, leave it until the dog has reached maturity, which for collies would be around a year to 18 months.  If you can’t be bothered with the hassle, definitely get them neutered.

Yesterday I wrote about what happens to a bitch coming into season and how to manage this.  If you are prepared for the need to pay attention to your dog every 6-8 months and make sure that they do not come into contact with uncastrated dogs, then you may choose to leave your dog unneutered.

As I said earlier, I had my only male dog castrated at the age of six months.  My first dog was done in middle age, having had two litters of pups, to ensure she did not suffer from pyometra.

Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively. “Pyometra is a secondary infection…” Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female’s reproductive tract.”

Much safer to have the operation.  I had planned to have Sunny spayed once she had had her third litter.  I hesitated because I felt that it was a major operation that she did not need to have.  I can manage my dogs, I thought.  Sadly, Luna had to have a caesarian with her last litter and when the vet asked if I wanted her spayed as well, I thought ‘why not’.  I asked if it would make the operation more complicated and he said “No, it will be simpler, as it’s easier to remove everything.”  I then didn’t have to worry about post-op infection in her uterus as it had all been taken out!

Luna made such a great recovery from the operation and really rocked the shirt provided by the vet, which was brilliant compared with the stupid lampshade they usually provide.  She was moving around normally within a day or two and a month today since the op she if fully healed and back to her usual self.  On the strength of that, I decided to go ahead with Aura’s spay, which was done a week ago.  Aura is more active than Luna, so I thought it might be harder to manage her recovery.  Silly me!  She is younger and fitter than her mum, so is completely better within the week. Amazing.

Now I don’t have to worry about them being in season when I enter shows and I have less girls to clear up after.  No more worrying about dogs chasing us when we are out – at least with these two.  I am a total convert!

In conclusion

Leave it until they reach maturity, so that their bones have a chance to develop fully and normally.  Then do it!  Stop the production of unwanted dogs and make your life easier.  Then make sure you keep your dog fit and healthy, through exercise and training.

Remember..

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Coming into season – what does it mean?

Dog doc question 12: How do you manage your dog’s seasons?

Six of my seven dogs have been girls and I’ve never had a problem with them coming into season.  This is the term used to describe their fertile period.  With dogs, this is approximately every six months (but can vary from dog to dog) and it lasts for three weeks.  They may come into season for the first time at any time from the age of six months (although usually not till around their first birthday for collies).  The bigger the dog, the later they mature and the longer the gaps may be between seasons.

You can tell they are coming into season because they may become clingy and seem a bit fed up.  They start to get a bit possessive over toys and might take these into their bed.  Sometimes a bitch will scrabble at their bed when in season.  I usually become aware of a bitch ‘marking’ a bit more frequently when they are out on a walk, peeing at shorter intervals and more often.  She might lick herself after going out in the garden.  They can smell differently to you, if you are cuddling up on the sofa – it’s not horrible, just a change.  If you have a look at their vulva, it will become a bit swollen and more open.

The main indicator is that they will bleed.  Spots of blood should appear on the floor – dark red and about the size of 5p coin.  If you point it out to the dog she will usually lick it up and it’s quite good to make them aware of it.  Of course you will clean it up yourself as well; remember cold water is the best way to remove blood from soft furnishings.

In my experience the blood is not really an issue, but then I have lived with animals for almost my whole life, so am used to bodily fluids being deposited in my living space!  Some people find it a nuisance though and I understand you can buy some dog pants to help.

Walking with your dog in season

Once you have realised your dog is in season, you need to be more vigilant with them when you are out walking.  They usually become fully fertile around day 10 of their season and remain so until day 17.  At around this time you may notice that they become far more interested in other dogs than usual.  Your bitch might be really flirty, going up to other dogs and trying to engage them in interaction.

You don’t need to worry too much about this, (most dogs are neutered after all).  I also find that Sunny starts to ‘range’ a bit more than usual, which I need to be aware of, but she will still come back when called. You DO need to worry if your bitch starts lifting her tail when another dog is around, as this indicates the height of her fertility.  She stands still, with her tail curling up and over her back, saying “I’m ready, come and get me!”

Occasionally, I have met an uncastrated male on a walk when one of my girls is in season.  It is a bit daunting to be followed by such a dog, as they can be very persistent.  I might find myself shouting at them and trying to chase them away.  They are never aggressive, as they are much too interested in what they might be getting!  Of course in that situation I pop my girl on the lead and shove her between my legs if necessary.  Lots of people stop walking their bitch when she is in season, but that always seems such a shame to me – it’s not their fault after all.  As long at I feel I can still control my dog, I will take her out.

After around ten days, you should start to see the blood spots becoming paler, often described as ‘straw coloured’.  Some people use this as an indicator of fertility but it’s not a hard and fast rule.  You can take them to the vet’s for an ovulation test or take their temperature, but of course most people should not be mating their dog anyway, so it’s not important.

Phantom pregnancy

Another issue to be aware of when having an unneutered bitch is that they may have a phantom pregnancy after their season.  Typically, this will be a few weeks after their season.  Again, you will see their behaviour change, with them hoarding toys or food, scratching at their bed and hiding in corners.  You will probably want to get them checked out by the vet, not least to ensure that they are not in fact pregnant.  Then you will need to monitor them and wait for normality to return.  Phantom pregnancies are not common, nor particularly damaging to the dog, but can be a nuisance.  This will usually cause you to choose to have the dog spayed.

I will talk about when to neuter your dog in the next post – I’ve written enough for today!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about? 

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Crates, Cages and Kennels – What’s the point?

Dog Doc Question 11: Why would you keep your dog in a cage?

Look what my puppy can do!  Thanks to Sarah for telling me how to teach this trick.  She’s supposed to shut the door as well but I’m not confident about teaching that bit yet.

People often say to me “I don’t like the idea of using a cage for my dog, it seems mean to put them in there.”  As you can see from the video, Ounce does not mind going in her bed, in fact she loves it!

As you can see from the photo, there is plenty of space for Ounce inside her crate.  I’ve covered it with a towel and she has her vet bed in there to make it nice and comfortable.  In fact it looks more like a kennel than a cage.  Here’s what I have put on the Equipment Advice page about crates.

Crates

Your puppy needs its own space and safe place.  The crate or cage keeps it safe and out of trouble when it is alone, rather like putting a baby in a cot or playpen.  It also helps to teach the puppy that it does need to rest and so do you.

When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown. Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies may get their mouths caught.  Put some bedding inside and tie some toys in the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them. Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep. Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find, so the puppy learns to love going in there.

A handy hint to ensure that your puppy is eager to enjoy the safety and calm of the crate is to feed him in there. Then, quietly close the door. Puppies love to search and sniff for pieces of food, and once they have found and eaten everything, they often settle down and drift into sleep for an hour or so. This gives you a chance to do other things without worrying about what the puppy is up to, and it is a good experience for the puppy to curl up and sleep in the cot by choice.  You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate and initially this should be whilst you are in the room with it.

Make sure your puppy has recently emptied its bladder and bowels before it enters and do not leave your puppy in the crate or puppy pen for more than a couple of hours during the daytime. Although most puppies are content to sleep in their crate overnight, they get very distressed if they have to foul near their beds, so you must be prepared to get out of your bed to let them out if they need to toilet during the night. If they have fouled inside the crate, you must clean it out immediately or the puppy will hate being in the crate.

Never use the crate as a sin-bin or you will teach your puppy to resent it.
Always remove the puppy’s collar when in the crate in case it gets caught up on it.

It’s a bed, not a cage

This is the crucial point.  It is not a way to contain your dog and stop them from moving about and enjoying life.  It is somewhere safe for them to go and sleep.

Five years ago, for our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Norway to see the Northern Lights.  Part of that amazing holiday involved going out on a husky sled.  The dogs were great, but they weren’t very domesticated.  I was shocked to see that they were kept in individual kennels, which were little more than holes in the ground, out in the snow.  But I was told that if they were kept together they fought.  And during the summer months they lived a much freer life.  Those dogs were happy and healthy and quite honestly, they had a brilliant life.  They were outside, running about every day, howling at the moon all night long (we didn’t get much sleep!)

It really made me think about the way we keep our dogs and it is something I often reflect on.  I know many people with large numbers of dogs, who usually keep them in separate crates for large chunks of the day and night.  I don’t do that, but if I put a crate up, all my dogs will immediately go in it.  If Ounce isn’t in her crate then someone else will usually go into it (often the cat!)   So my dogs aren’t ‘kept’ in crates, but they don’t sleep on my bed either.

In this country, we want the best for our pets.  That’s great, as long as it is actually the best for the pets, not what we think is the best for them.  If your dog is left alone to chew up your house and you then get angry with it and want to get rid of it, that is not a great solution, is it? Give your puppy a safe, happy place to call their own.  They will thank you for it.

Remember..

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Rescue or Breeder?

Dog Doc Question 10: Should you always try to rescue a dog?

Who wouldn’t want an adorable dog like this?  He is lovely and in the right home, can be a huge success.  I have rescued dogs myself (twice, albeit from family members) so I know that it’s a great way to get a dog.  But..

Sticking my neck out here, it’s not perfect.  There are pros and cons to rescuing dogs.  Let’s have a look at a few?

Pros for rescue dogs

  • You are doing a great thing, saving a dog from a ‘horrible’ home.
  • Sometimes dogs are in rescues for unavoidable reasons.  People’s circumstances change – their job, their relationship, their home, their family.  All of these can impact on someone’s ability to keep their dog.  A dog may need a new home because the owner has died – clearly that is a good reason for a dog to go elsewhere.
  • You can get the dog you want, straight away.  If you look hard enough, most dog breeds can be found in rescue.
  • You don’t need to have a puppy, so you don’t have to go through the challenges of house training, coping with chewing and everything else a puppy brings!
  • It’s better to get an adult dog if you work, because it is easier to leave it.

Cons with rescue dogs

  • Rescue centres have stringent vetting processes for people wanting a dog from them.  Often they won’t allow a rescue dog to go to a family with young children, or to a home where the owners work full time.  Or a home with cats.
  • You don’t know what you are getting.  Of course you can usually tell more or less what breed a dog is and how old it is, roughly, but you may not know much else.  Rescue centres are great at providing a history of their dogs, but they may not have been told the full story.  That’s because..
  • People lie.  That lovely young border collie, perfect for agility?  Actually has a physical defect which is causing major pain and lameness.  This might need surgery to correct, which is traumatic for you and the dog, not to mention expensive.  You will then need months of rehabilitation and training to restore fitness and confidence.
  • Dogs have issues.  Dogs that have been mistreated are fearful, which in turn leads to aggression.  This can be with other dogs, or with people, or just with children.  Or with cars, or bikes, or loud noises….  All of these issues can be worked through and progress can be made, but dogs with issues can be irreparably damaged and it may take the patience of a saint to deal with these.
  • Poor behaviour.  Dogs belonging to ‘dog’ people who are familiar with dogs and have owned them for many years are not placed into rescues.  Dogs in rescues have often belonged to people who don’t know what they are doing.  Worse still, they don’t care about their dog enough to train it and manage it well.  So you are taking on those problems and have to undo them before you can start training effectively.  This might be something as simple as persistent barking (very persistent barking!)  But re-training this behaviour can take years.
  • Easy-going, confident, well-behaved dogs are not placed into rescue centres.

It’s difficult isn’t it?  You want to do the right thing and feel that because it’s not the dog’s fault (it’s almost never the dog’s fault) they should be given a second chance.  Still, there are a few keys points you must also bear in mind:

  1. If you rescue a dog, you are condoning its abandonment in the first place.  You are effectively saying “It’s OK if you can’t be bothered to take care of your dog properly, I will do it for you.”  You are accepting the fact that we live in a disposable society where people demand instant gratification and don’t care about the consequences.  As long as rescue centres exist, people will think they can just get rid of their dogs.
  2. Yes of course I know that people get rid of dogs anyway and that rescue centres are run by saints and heroes.   Yes I know that people make honest mistakes and circumstances change.  However, in my experience, people who make honest mistakes are big enough to own up to them and do something positive about it (returning their dog to its breeder, for example) and people whose circumstances change work as hard as they can to find a solution from amongst friends and family.
  3. If ALL dogs were bought from responsible breeders, who were supported by a legislative body that monitored breeding and the welfare of dogs, then people would expect to wait for a suitable dog.  Guidance would be given to buyers about the right kind of dog for their lifestyle.  Breeders would provide good quality dogs of appropriate temperament and health, saving the owners money and psychological anguish.

The reason dogs are NOT all bought from responsible breeders is that demand far outstrips supply.  Responsible breeders cannot breed sufficient dogs, without scaling up their breeding into a commercial enterprise which becomes, yes you’ve guessed it, a puppy farm.

What is the solution?

In my view, the solution is to education the public about dog ownership.  Dogs are not toys.  They might be soft, fluffy and cuddly, or have cute faces, but they are LIVING BEINGS.  They have thoughts, emotions, feelings and opinions.  They are sentient creatures, who deserve a good life.  This means that if you let a dog into your life, you are responsible for its care.  You will need to invest time and energy into managing it and caring for it.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”

My opinion is that we can teach people to be more critical about the place they get their dog from.  If they know what a great dog looks and behaves like, then there is a possibility that they won’t be satisfied with a dog that flinches every time you go near it, or barks constantly.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will happen naturally.  We will probably need the ongoing support of that legislative body I mentioned, the good old Kennel Club.  But I believe that we can do better for our dogs.

Remember..

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