In different countries around the world, “they” eat dogs, abuse animals in laboratories, beat seals to death and kill porpoises. Depending on individual beliefs, some of these activities are more distasteful than others. Certainly, we should all do our best to stop unnecessary abuse and wasteful slaughter. However, it is also important to maintain perspective and view the big picture. Right here in the United States “we” eat cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and sheep (often warehoused in horrifying conditions). However, here, abuse, beating, and killing are largely reserved for domestic dogs, horses and humans.

Dogs are euthanized because they develop behavior problems. Dogs develop behavior problems because many training methods are ineffective and some are adversarial and abusive. In fact, abuse of the domestic dog in the average household is the single most prevalent example of inhumane treatment to animals. As such, it should be the most pressing concern for breeders, trainers, veterinary surgeons, and humane groups.

Dogs are very popular/prevalent in today’s society, and their plight is at an all time high. In the many countries, specific breeds have been banned altogether! Far too many dogs end up in shelters, wherein far too many are euthanized. It is no mystery why dogs end up in shelters — most are surrendered by their owners or picked up as strays on the street.

Why Are Dogs Surrendered To Shelters?

The most commonly given reasons for surrender are: 1. The landlord objects, 2. The owner does not have enough time, and 3. The owner is moving. The above are all people-reasons. Additional questioning reveals underlying dog-reasons. Why does the landlord object? The landlord objects to endless complaints from other tenants about urine dripping through the floorboards, feces on the footpath, and the dog barking all day and all night. Also, the landlord is seldom enthusiastic about the dog's demolition job on the apartment. Not enough time? Not enough time for what? A well-behaved dog doesn’t take that much time to care for properly. Moving? Taking your family along? Then why not take the dog with you as well?  Isn’t she part of your family as well? Behavior problems are the major reason for giving-up a dog. If the dog behaved as well as Lassie, perhaps landlords would be more understanding, perhaps owners would have sufficient time to enjoy their dogs, and perhaps owners would be more inclined to move the dog along with the kids and the furniture.

Why Do People Let Their Dogs Roam At Large?

Usually dogs are allowed to roam because the owners dare not leave the dog home alone, most probably because the dog soils the house, destructively chews, and barks excessively. A well-behaved dog may be left in the comfort and safety of his own home, rather than being turned out to fend for himself as a doggy delinquent.

Behavior problems are much (MUCH) more common than diseases such as distemper and parvovirus, and often the prognosis is just as serious. The sequence of events is predictable The puppy soils the house, or chews a bit, and so is relegated to the yard, where he learns to be an indiscriminant eliminator and chewer and an excessive barker and digger. After neighbors complain about the barking, the untrained and unruly dog is often isolated and confined to the basement, which it wrecks before he is sent to the streets en route for the shelter. The case history of many strays and surrendered dogs may be traced back to unresolved puppy housesoiling problems. For dogs, even simple behavior problems — such as housesoiling, barking and chewing — can be the equivalent of a terminal illness.

Why Do Dogs Develop Behavior Problems?

Believe it or not, dogs have a strong tendency to do doggy things. Most misbehaviors are perfectly normal, natural and necessary ingredients of the dog's basic behavior repertoire.  The dog's behavior is inappropriate rather than abnormal.  Or, to be more precise, the owner considers the dog's behavior to be inappropriate. Dogs “misbehave” simply because they have not been adequately instructed how to express their basic animal nature in a manner that the owner deems appropriate and acceptable within the domestic environment. Consequently, dogs are forced to improvise in their quest for occupational therapy to pass the time of day. Being dogs, they neither knit, needlepoint, nor watch soaps on the telly. Instead, they chew, dig, bark and mark the house.

Dogs are only acting like dogs. However, rather than finessing misbehaviors by modifying and redirecting the dog's natural inclinations along the lines of a civilized canine, most owners confront the problem head-on and try to eliminate the dog's natural tendencies altogether by punishing the poor dog every time he acts like a dog.  Instead we need to teach puppy/dogs where to urinate and defecate, what to chew, when and for how long to bark, where to dig, and how to greet people and walk on leash. That is what dog training is all about and why it is so very important.

This article is based on part of Dr. Dunbar's Behavior column in the January 1990 issue of the American Kennel Gazette. Reprinted with the permission of the author and the American Kennel Club.

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