Today many dog rescue groups are working tirelessly to help an overwhelming number of dogs that have been physically abused. And although we know several of these same dogs have also been mentally abused once they are taken in, treated physically at the vets, and then placed in the rescue organization it seems we (as a society) are largely clueless about how to help them finally move on to a successful, relaxed, playful, “happy” dog life! Dog owners can’t seem to get past the dog’s past. It seems there is a large disconnect when it comes to solving mental abuse.
There is a host of quite common mistakes that are frequently made when we examine how the often fearful or aggressive “rescue” dog is handled. (I will try and refrain from mentioning that many dog rescues are boldly lying to the potential adopters face about the level of potential dangers inherent in many of the dogs they are attempting to adopt out in order to fudge their “rescue” numbers! That, perhaps is an issue for another day)
The whole focus after the new rescue dog is checked out and treated by the vet (and, Dear Reader, often if the dog is dangerous to people the vet gives a quick visual inspection…NOT even Touching the dog during the half-hearted exam!) anyway…the focus then shifts to fostering and simply getting the animal a “forever” home. I’ll tell you now – it’s too quick! The dogs aren’t ready. And they will NEVER be ready if the vets or volunteers aren’t prepared properly or don’t know what they are doing! So, invariably, many dogs are returned a couple days or weeks or months later for aggression, phobias, anxieties, destructive behaviors, housebreaking issues, and in general because they were adopted out while still needing massive amounts of natural, calming behavior modification and socialization.
There is a giant disconnect and it is 100% behaviorally related between when the rescue dogs arrive at the vet/rescue and how they are handled while in the rescue to prep them for their new homes. THIS is where many mistakes are happening and this is why so many dogs can’t be adopted out or if they are they come back so quickly or remain in their new home only to attack people or other dogs or cats! Let’s take a closer look.
These dogs were (usually) taken out of physically or socially poor situations but then they are placed in very well-meaning but still mentally poor situations! They are treated physically (somewhat) but then viewed as these poor, pathetic, victims and then typically forced right into a “positive only” -bribery and high excitement-based training philosophy that was doomed to fail from the beginning! At this point, if they aren’t biting too much or if they are a physically good looking dog they will be adopted out…at least for a few weeks. And, as discussed above, even if they are a danger to society many shelters/rescues will STILL try and adopt them out!!!
Once in their new home the dogs are most usually babied. (something any older, normal, social canine would never do to a younger pathetic newly placed dog or pup) If we, as people, act like pups and talk in high pitched tones all the time to our rescue dogs they may seem to like it but in reality you are just pumping them up in their energy as you attempt to “Sell” the dog on your friendship and love. Most folks seldom if ever ask themselves what does this dog need mentally/psychologically from me? Most rescue owners never honestly observe and learn from how a calm, social, normal dog would handle meeting one of these fearful new rescue dogs. (Excepting, of course, you fine followers of this blog. You and I now know better.) If one did consider how calm, socially normal dogs function in their society one would soon discover that dogs start out with a quick smell to identify and meet the dog then the calm, social dog would usually do the right thing and IGNORE the nervous, neurotic rescue dog. They lead dogs play a little hard to get. The ignoring is to establish who’s in charge and let the new rescue dog know that it’s the social and friendly way or the highway! The ignoring also signifies a degree of trust and freedom in the newly blossoming relationship. Healthy older dogs do NOT rush to sell or force a relationship the way 99% of people do with dogs! Do we do that when we are introduced to a new dog? Do we follow the dog way? Or are we adding to the problem and bumbling through life?
Most people are totally wrong when it comes to rescue work! They feel bad and present weak energy toward the “victim” dog. And the dogs, being naturally intelligent creatures that depend on a pack to survive, quickly start manipulating more and more control of their bodies and then their crates and then whatever the hell else they want to manipulate or claim or control! Their fears then grow and grow until they are biting anyone for touching “them” anywhere or flipping out on people if they go to walk by “their” kennel, or “their” food, or “their” owner. It is a horrible and slippery slope when fear manipulates more of a foothold in the dog brain. And it always, always, always does if the training methods are poor and if we, as people, do not follow nature’s wonderful example.
Please understand me. I am on the side of the rescue groups and all the hard working volunteers and vets that spend their free time in so noble a pursuit as helping those animals that sometimes cannot help themselves. I am aware that there are thousands upon thousands of dogs that are in the rescue organizations throughout this wide world. And I am just offering a bit of honest advice as a pro trainer/behaviorist to help rapidly advance the cause of the dog in order to actually help these vets, rescue leaders, and volunteers and that in turn will help the animals both mentally and physically. Tom Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and noted brainiac, and our third President said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Have we taken a healthy and honest look or is rescue work over-emotionalized to the point of lying to ourselves and others about whether a dog is a danger to our own children and to society at large?
I for one want to save as many dogs as possible but I want to help them physically as well as mentally and emotionally. We must seek out better solutions than what is happening currently (in 2018).
I don’t want to rescue dogs to fill some gaping hole in my own life because that is not actually a healthy way forward…that is a mask, my friends. We all know full well that those commercials they show us are intended to go straight to the heart and then to our wallet. I don’t want to fawn all over a fearful or skittish dog because I know most fearful dogs can and actively do grow that overboard soft attention into possession and aggression. I don’t want to live in a neighborhood where the vet is giving dogs a pass physically although the examination was barely conducted or shall we say conducted half-assed due to the vet being terrified of the dog and then…then they have the despicable audacity to lie about the danger level of the dog or its past, pawn it off on to some unwitting yet kind family as the rescue group crosses their fingers and throws up a prayer hoping that the dangerous dog stays in its “forever home!” (I’m writing about a recent specific case if you couldn’t tell, folks. But, believe me, this is not an isolated incident!)
I want better. I want better for my family and our neighborhood. I want better for my country. I want better for the dogs. These rescues need to wake up and focus more on quality as well as quantity. They need to stop fudging their rescue numbers and look at the truth of 5 MILLION reported bites a year in the USA alone. (And those are only the reported ones!) They need to look images of the 39 people killed in 2017 by dogs (most were killed by their own rescue dogs).
I wanted to share this with you all because I see and experience and have to do my darndest to avoid getting bit while actively rehabilitating dogs (behaviorally) that were in no way ready to be released to the public yet the rescue group adopted them out!
We need to rescue, sure, but let’s rescue the whole of the dog. Let’s rescue physically of course but let’s be real sure to rescue them emotionally and mentally too! (Dogs are dying for proper leadership)
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