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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The BIG QUESTION

My friend Carlene was telling me about the dog that used to live down the street from her.  The dog spent its puppyhood and young adulthood outside on a chain, without shelter and most of the time without water.  Mom and Dad both worked, and the young kids just weren't interested in spending time with the dog.  Fortunately some concerned neighbors like Carlene intervened, and the dog went to a local no-kill shelter before being re-homed in a better place.

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.

1 comment:

BboGuri_Hana said...

just by luck I found your blog. I have seen this over and over and it upsets me to no end. The sad part of it, is that our city does not have an ASPCA that we can call and they can do something about it. I personally encounter this situation. My brother got a small terrier mix puppy for the kids. The kids thought it was so cute and cuddly, but that was it. My sister in law does not like dogs or cats so she did not take the time to teach the kids the responsibility of taking care of a pet. My brother, did not care. I became an annoyance trying to encourage the kids to feed the puppy, place fresh water and make sure he was out of the cold and rain. When the dog got out after the gate was left open by one of them, he was ran over by kid from the near by high school that was speeding. He was still alive when they picked him up from the street. I remember it was around 11 or 12 during the day. I was called to let me know what had happened. Even when I begged my sister in law to take him to the vet, she refused, cause she did not wanted to touch him. I had to get home in a hurry, and take him to the vet. His hip was crushed and he was in great pain. The vet said that he would live but needed care. I did not care, I just wanted to make things better for him. When I got home I confronted everyone about it. I made it clear, that "Sparky" was now mine. Since the 600 dlls bill said so. Not long ago one of my nephews told me he wanted a puppy. I told him, we have Sparky; he said that he did not liked sparky since he was not small and cuddly.