You have to wonder why those bad owners got the dog in the first place. I suspect they got it thinking they needed a "family dog" for their kids because "that's what you do," or because the dog would look good in the annual Christmas photo. The dog was probably purchased as a toy, like a fishing boat or a snowmobile, but with much less forethought.
If I'd been the breeder interviewing this family before selling them this dog, I would have asked one question that would tell me everything I needed to know about them.
"What is your goal for this dog?"
They probably would have responded with a blank stare and a "Goal? I don't know, I guess we just think a dog would be good for the kids."
And I would have sent them on their way, without the dog.
Some passing answers might have been,
- "I want him to be a hunting dog."
- "I want him to be a good dog for my kids to play with." (Note: Not the same as "...a dog would be good for the kids.")
- "I want to do agility and/or obedience competition with him."
- "I want him to be a therapy dog."
- "I'd like him to guard the property."
- "I'd like to to Search and Rescue with her."
- "I just want a well behaved dog we can take anywhere."
Stating a goal is stating an intention. With dogs, the intention implies that the owner(s) are committed to working with the dog to achieve the goals. A well behaved family dog doesn't just happen naturally. It happens only if the owners are resigned to training and molding the dog into what they want and need. The training starts the day you bring the dog home. All too often, training gets postponed until the dog becomes so uncontrollable that training becomes an insurmountable task. That's when dogs end up on chains in back yards, ignored and uncared for.
Next time you're helping a family member or friend choose a dog, ask them the million-dollar question. "What is your goal for the dog you plan to get?" That could be the start of a lively, fruitful dialogue that could have a major impact on lives, human and canine.