What Is A Shelter Dog?

What is a “shelter dog”, anyway?  Sometimes it seems that they are separated into a unique category, as if they are “different” somehow from all of the dogs living in homes, or being bred endlessly by breeders.  Yet, of course, they all started somewhere, obviously.  How did all of these faces that stare at us from behind the chain link get there?

There is a pyramid of cause:  it starts with those who breed.  It goes on to those who sell for profit, such as pet stores.  It continues with those who buy a puppy and either through ignorance or laziness or life circumstances the pup grows up “wrong” – lacking what they need to survive the reality of a dog’s life in the society of mankind.

Since Christmas has just passed, the usual amount of stressed telephone calls has begun.  Reams and reams of owners who now have a puppy, and who find themselves living in misunderstandings and stress.  I was somewhat surprised this year, for some reason, by some of these calls, and the level of ignorance displayed by the callers.  Housetraining:  the number one issue. Puppy biting a close second, along with chewing on furniture and jumping on children.

And as you talk to these individuals on the phone it becomes so clear that these puppies are teetering on that edge – the edge where their owners are beginning to feel overwhelmed, where they are beginning to feel angry and out of control.  If they don’t find relief soon, and these puppies get just a little bit older and more rambunctious, we may well see that puppy’s face looking out from behind the chain link.

Not wanted; too many to care about them all; picking and choosing who will live, who will die.  It’s a horrible state of affairs.

We, as trainers, need to step up as best we can and try to intervene, try to make things better right then and there on the telephone.  Give some advice; give out some hints that will help in the short-term.  This is what I think as I grit my teeth to go through another explanation of housetraining and whether or not a puppy *knows* that what they are doing is “wrong”, and why they are *not* doing it on purpose.  It really is the least we can do.