The Lifecycle of the Typical American “Pet” Dog

Before you read this, watch these videos all the way through on this link:

Must watch dog video, click here

In a few weeks it’ll be 2019. We just recently landed a probe on Mars that is sending back images of the Red Planet. Humankind sounds pretty advanced, impressive. What I can’t help but think about when I see news stories of scientific discoveries is how backwards we’re going in something as basic as our pet ownership. We can put a probe on Mars, but then we have lost or ability to read a dog. How is it that it’s getting worse as the years move on?

When someone calls/emails/texts/private messages me about their dog, 9 times out of 10 they’re in a conundrum regarding behavior. They’re contacting a rescue about the dog, not a dog trainer (a real hands-on solution with proven results), so you can already feel the question that’s lingering in the air — “can you take my dog?”

And here’s the earth-shattering question I ask all of them…

“Why did you get a dog?”

People mentally trip over that question (they expect me to talk about what’s wrong with the dog). It takes a while to walk them through to the core reason. They start with, “I wanted to give a dog a good home.” That might be true, but that’s not really the in-depth answer.

Historically, dogs were bred for a specific purpose. My Grandfather used to raise English SettersGurdenAndRed for hunting. That’s what dogs were for back in those days – whether it be hunting, herding, protection, flock guardians, clearing the property of destructive/disease-spreading vermin, they had a function; the dog filled in the gaps/completed tasks that were beyond the human’s limited ability. (Pictured is my Great-Grandfather, he’s the Elmer Fudd-looking guy on the Left. My Grandfather’s Setter, Lady, is down front. She single-handedly put a lot of food on their table.) People still use dogs for those purposes today, but that’s not who I’m talking about in this blog – because those dog owners are atypical. I’m talking about the common household American “pet” dog.

In today’s society, the God’s honest truth as to why most Americans get a dog is that dog owners want that unconditional, unquestioning, undying love and all-accepting devotion to the absolute bitter end regardless of how disgusting we are as a human race. We want something that’s addicted to us, seeking out that oxytocin high. It’s like living with that thinking, breathing, kissing, scientifically-proven “social media ‘like/thumbs up’ high” on 4 legs with plushy fur that’s so tangible that you can hug it.

You want something that listens better than your husband.

You want something that doesn’t nag you like your wife.

You want something that loves and needs you more than your kids do.

And you want to know another dirty human secret? We don’t want to earn that kind of relationship; we want instant glory. And, in return, we could not possibly care any less if our dog is happy, content, secure, healthy, stress-free, mentally sound based on its true needs (matched to its unique personality) vs what we think it needs. (Not to get political, but you wanna know why American kids are shooting up the schools? Same. Exact. Thing.)

As Americans we need to ask – what kind of torture are we putting our dogs through? What is the typical lifecycle that the average American dog endures? “Well, I can put up with a lot from a dog.” That kind of idea doesn’t make you a wonderful, patient, loving, ideal pet owner – what makes you wonderful is fixing what is bothering the dog in the first place and having the courage to really examine it. Let’s start with puppyhood. (I encourage you to click on each of the blue links so you fully understand each point.)

You get the puppy…

  • You get a puppy at 6 weeks of age, well before the state law of 8 weeks, and it doesn’t have those two extra weeks with its mother to learn bite inhibition and overall confidence.  It grows into a socially backwards dog that reacts poorly to every bit of stimuli that it encounters. The chances of it eventually getting dumped at a shelter have increased already.
  • You can’t decide which puppy to get, or you feel sorry for the situation they’re in (i.e. puppy mill, hoarder, screwball rescue foster home, etc.), so you get two. What could go wrong – it’ll have a playmate, right? And from the same litter. FACT: Never would the world-famous master dog trainers or the world champion dog handlers ever buy two puppies from the same litter. And they know what they’re doing. Don’t believe me? Google it – “Littermate Syndrome”. Any breeder that allows you to buy two puppies at the same time is an asshat. (And if you don’t get them fixed, they WILL mate. Mother nature always wins – even humans commit incest and we’re supposed to be the superior species.)
  • You get the puppy home. You’re getting ready to go to sleep but you can’t handle it crying/keeping you awake so you bring it into bed with you. You never crate train it and teach it to be comfortable in its own skin, setting it up for separation anxiety to the nth degree. (This is the #1 thing I have to fix with almost every foster dog that comes into our program.)
  • You take your puppy everywhere when you first get it – to the pet store, to the ballpark, have a party and expose tons of people to it. You don’t realize you’re setting your puppy up for reactivity when it gets older. Here’s a great video of Tyler Muto explaining how that happens, fast-forward to 34:27 through: Leash Reactivity
  • You leave the kids unsupervised with the dog. Or worse, you sit there and videotape the interaction for your social media page. They pick it up, throw it, choke it, hit it, lay on it, pin it down, drag it around on a leash, pull its hair, ride it like a horse, scream at it, stick their hands in the food bowl, rip the toys out of the dog’s mouth, etc. The puppy/dog spends the rest of its life either being completely on edge at all times, becoming a fear-biter or resource guarder, or it ends up submissively peeing at the sight/sound of new stimuli. The variety of residual behaviors land the dog in a belly band (for the submissive peeing), locked in a laundry room, or stuck outside in a pen or on a chain/tie-out because no one wants to constantly clean up after it or get bit. (The photo at the heading of this blog IS reality. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes, more times than I can count.) Or worse, the dog finally gets sick of its space being invaded by a child and it does this: Dog – Sinner or Saint?  (dog was euthanized instead of finding it a home without kids. It was a Patron Saint of All Dogs up until that point, though, right?)
  • Your kids are allergic to cats therefore you get a short-coated dog thinking it will be fine. Turns out the kid is allergic to dogs, too. You try shaving the dog’s already short coat (yes, people shave French Bulldogs, Labs, etc. – dogs aren’t allowed to even have fur anymore), turns out the shaving doesn’t work. The dog is dumped at the shelter/rescue or worse – it lives the rest of its life outside (remember it has shaved fur) with maybe 5 minutes of human interaction a day during feeding time. And if it ever does come in, it goes into a crate in the basement or kept in the garage away from the family.
  • Or, you already know your kids are allergic to dogs, so you get a non-shedding breed thinking that will be okay because “that’s what people say.” (People don’t tell you dogs also have saliva and dander that are allergy triggers.) You want something small, a lap dog that you can carry around or put in a purse/backpack thing, which only means a terrier type dog. But the terrier breeds typically don’t tolerate young children very well because they’re fast-moving, clumsy, and they squeal loudly – kids acting/sounding like what the dog is originally bred to kill. When the baby turns 12 months and starts walking, that’s when the biting begins, and the phone calls to me happen. I ask, “is the baby around a year old?” They say yes and ask how did I know? It’s not because I’m psychic.
  • You get a puppy for your 3-/4-yr-old child for Christmas and proudly proclaim on social media that the child will be taking care of it since it’s their dog. Even though the child isn’t old enough to wipe his/her own butt by themselves, they’re going to be able to handle the full responsibility of feeding the dog, brushing the dog, taking it out to potty, etc. Eventually the mother has a rescue come get the dog since they’re done dealing with it, and you can imagine the crushing heartbreak that child endures. We’re talking honest to God sobbing with their face in their hands. They will never forget this moment as long as they live. Parents – this Christmas you need to think, “do I get my child a puppy or a broken heart?” Believe me when we rescuers tell you the latter is far worse than just the survivable disappointment of “not getting a puppy from Santa this year”.
  • You get a puppy right after you get married as a way to try out your/your spouses parenting skills. The moment the baby comes, you can’t handle the stress of a newborn baby AND a dog, so you throw the dog outside. Or you just assume the dog won’t accept the new baby (even though there are trainers who can help you with successfully adjusting a dog to a new baby) and sell it to the first person who comes along on Craig’s List. Our great-grandparents had 10-12 kids, and they had dogs. But today we get pregnant with our first kid and dump the Shih Tzu because we can’t handle the responsibility of both. (There is no way we can survive a zombie apocalypse, I’m here to tell you.)
  • The number one case I run into is people get a puppy for the kids when they are little, and as they grow they get heavily involved in sports, dance, cheerleading, music, etc. The dog is alone during the work day, then it’s left alone all evening because its humans are at practice or competition just about 7 days a week, then it’s alone at night while the humans sleep (and if the kid is on some kind of traveling team/group, you’re not home all weekend long.) Alone, alone, alone. It waits and waits for them to come home. And when the humans are home, the dog still lives its life as a prisoner locked in a crate or laundry room – it was too much of a hassle to be worked with this whole time so it can achieve being left loose in the house safely. When you try to do anything with the dog it falls apart mentally because you set it up so that it can’t handle anything in life – it’s even scared of cars driving past on a serene walk around the neighborhood. It can’t find the joy in the simple things such as “going bye-bye” like a normal dog. I’ve seen some so scared that going on a hike in the woods with zero stimuli would make them just sit there and try to disappear, afraid of the grass, not wanting to use their nose/sniff around and explore nature. In the past few decades we’ve single-handedly deprogrammed dogs from having the instincts and desires of their wolf ancestors, all because we’re lazy and hold them prisoner. Then one day you decide to find a new family for the dog because “you don’t have time for it anymore” (aka = you just don’t want to deal with it anymore) – and the new family does the exact same thing (or worse, it’s sold to a dog flipper).
  • You buy a puppy for your 90-yr-old mother/grandmother because you don’t want her to be lonely. She accepts the dog because she doesn’t feel like arguing. She also doesn’t tell you what a hassle it is to deal with a puppy day in and day out. She can’t afford the vetting or grooming on a fixed income (often she worries about paying for her own medicines vs buying dog food), nor can she drive it to the groomer or vet let along get it in the car by herself. You don’t bother to help her with that because you’re busy with your own life. Since she came from a generation that didn’t complain, you would never know how put out she is from dealing with things like house-training, cleaning up after a dog, can’t brush it or pick it up because of arthritis, or merely getting up from a sitting or reclined position to let the dog out. You don’t see it for yourself since you hardly visit. The guilt you feel is why you got her the puppy in the first place. Seniors don’t want a puppy, they want to see their family, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And when you decide it’s time to put your mother/grandmother in a nursing home, you don’t take the dog into your home and let it visit her. Instead, you call a rescue to come get it, and we are the ones who sit there with her and let her cry, hugging the dog as she knows she’s being sent on to her very last stage of life (there’s more to it than just letting go of the dog. You’ll see when you get to that point. We all will.) While in rescue, the dog’s mind is blown because it hasn’t been socialized, hasn’t been walked at all, has to learn how to potty outside vs using potty pads (because grandma felt too bad to get up), and is used to being owned by someone who sleeps a lot. Takes a while to get a dog like this used to being a dog.

So the dog is an adult…

  • The Great Dane or Great Pyrenees puppy you got ended up being too big. [Hands down my all-time favorite “most silly” reason for dumping a dog.] It gets stuck outside because no one has time to train it now that it’s too big to handle (when it could have been taught as it was growing. People tend to teach these dogs to put their front paws up on their shoulders to show off how big they are, then they get mad that the dog jumps on them or their guests when they don’t ask for it. SMH.)
  • The herding breed puppy you got is now nipping the kids in a fury and scaring them, or getting out to chase cars. And when it blows its coat twice a year, the hair gets in the food. It’s just too much of a bother anymore.
  • The Husky or Beagle puppy you got has now developed all of its motor skills and can’t stay inside the non-fenced yard. Animal Control keeps picking them up and you keep getting fined for having a dog at large. You’re furious at the dog. Aggravated by the notorious breed-specific behavior, you call the breed-specific rescue to find out they have a waiting list of dogs a mile long exactly like yours (some “with papers”) trying to get in so they, too, can be rehomed for the same reasons. They have so many in rescue that they have dogs in boarding facilities. Turns out there are zillions of people who don’t do their research.
  • The German Shepherd, Border Collie, or Boxer puppy you got now has entirely too much energy for your sedentary lifestyle, and out of its boredom has learned to unlock doors, escape the crate or jump the fence to get into serious mischief. (I’ll never forget one time at the vet office running into the sedentary woman pulling an oxygen tank in one hand and in the other holding her 1.5-yr-old Border Collie on leash who had on a gentle leader/prong collar combo. She was there to get its prozac increased. The dog was driving her crazy with its energy. No aggression, no OCD behaviors, just too much energy. The city shelter adopted this dog to her. I’m still dumbstruck over that one.)
  • You never worked with your dog on being handled. You take it to the groomer and expect it to be stress free. Groomers are hands down the best dog behaviorists in the world (in my opinion – don’t believe me? Try shaving around a crazed dogs butthole and report back to me), and they have all kinds of ways of cooling a dog down on a groom table. But if you don’t do the work at home leading up to the appointments, it is going to be a life of mental torture for your dog. It’ll poop on the way to the groomer or in the lobby (or worse, on the table). Good groomers will tell you what to work on at home to make THE DOG’S time at the groomer easier ON THE DOG so the fear is lessened. Lazy dog owners get offended by that. I have a feeling these are the same people who think it’s a school teacher’s job to teach their kids how to sit still in class, have self-control, empathy, etc etc. (God has a sense of humor and made these people the most fertile in society, creating generation after generation of irrational people. It’s one of those phenomenons that cannot be explained.stressed dog
  • You thought you’d save some money and decide to train your dog on your own. You have no clue what you’re doing and get frustrated. prong collar looseYou buy a training tool and use it incorrectly, making the dog worse. For this photo, I am sitting at the vet’s waiting room next to some kids who have some bully breeds sporting some poorly fitted training collars. The prong collars are so loose the dogs’ heads slip out of them, they run around the packed waiting room and jump on other dogs. Of course I can’t keep quiet – I ask them what trainer they’re using. They drop the name of a trainer that I know well enough to know that they’re lying, because I know without a doubt that if that trainer saw the ill-fitted collars on these dogs those kids would be told to take a hike. There’s a science behind all training techniques, whether you agree with that technique or not. You have to be very careful with this. Hire a professional.
  • You give up on training and get the dog a harness so it doesn’t pull. At first it doesn’t pull. But as time goes by it builds those muscles. Ever heard of CrossFit for humans? You know how they put humans in those resistance harness and have them pull something heavy behind them? Why do they do that? To build muscle. Dogs build the same muscles. They’ll pull you even harder. And often they’re out front. You better pray a cat doesn’t run across the street or you’re not jumped by a loose dog. Just train your dog to walk on a leash, y’all. And don’t get me started on Flexi leads (nothing screams “my dog isn’t trained” like a retractable leash. Once saw a kid almost get his head cut off by one when an untrained Doodle went berserk.)
  • You got a dog knowing full well your landlord wouldn’t allow it. You snuck it into the apartment. It started out fine as a puppy, but now that it’s an adult and acting up, they found out about it through a complaint. The dog has to find a new home by this weekend. Landlord gets trashed on social media by knee-jerk animal rights activists for having rules set in place that you agreed to when you signed the contract/moved in. Someone suggests you get a fake service dog vest and a note from a doctor so the landlord can’t evict either of you…
  • You make your dog into a fake service dog. It’s not mentally capable of handling stimuli at all. The temperament is borderline dangerous and a possible threat to society. The stress you’re about to cram down its throat will cause health issues and shorten its life. All it takes is one snarling lunge and it makes the public second-guess all the certified service dogs and the owners/handlers who have put years of money, proper handling, and hard work into a dog that was born with actual sound, appropriate temperament for such a role – a dog they TRULY need to get through day to day life when you just don’t want to get kicked out of your apartment.
  • You leave your untrained dog outside loose/free and allow it to chase deer, run the neighborhood with the other dogs. And because you live in the country, it’s okay. Neighbors will just have to get over it. It doesn’t come back because you haven’t trained it to recall. It gets hit by a car or the neighbor threatens to shoot it for chasing/spooking their livestock/horses or killing their chickens. And yet somehow the neighbor is the a-hole. (Leash laws, people. LEASH. LAWS. Yes, out in the rural part of the county. Yes, they apply to even you.)
  • You have a Doodle. You NEVER brush it. I’m not talking occasionally dragging the slicker brush along the surface of the coat – I’m saying metal comb all the way down to the skin to ensure there are no mats. You take it all brillo-pad-matted to the groomer (“every 6 months whether it needs it or not” because “it’s over $100 to groom a dog you paid $3,000 for”) and they have to shave the coat all the way down as seen in this photo here. You get furious at the outcome and leave a 1-star review on the groomer’s social media or Yelp because, “THEY SHAVED MY DOG BALD!!” Doodle mattedNo, YOU didn’t brush your dog. And the asinine breeder you got it from should have made it crystal clear to you the strenuous coat upkeep before you purchased a puppy from them. There is no excuse for this – and “getting caught in the rain this morning” or “your dog falling off the back seat on the way over because someone slammed on their brakes in front of you” will NOT mat a dog’s fur in minutes. Own up to laziness and tip your groomer. (I have met only one Doodle that has a full coat and isn’t matted – Maggie. She and her owners are the “golden unicorn” dog/pet owner combo. I tell them that every time I see them.)
  • You sign your dog up for a board-to-train for a few weeks. When you get the dog back, you don’t do your homework at home. At all. You cut it loose in the home and behave exactly the way you did before you sent it off to training, no boundaries, no rules followed, nothing. Actually, you think that since it spent a few weeks with someone, it’s 100% bombproof. Some dogs even get worse because they feel more vulnerable after they’ve felt secure and now feel insecure in your home (the reason for the training in the first place.) How long does it take to train a service dog or K9 Unit dog? A few years. You think your dog will be perfect in a few weeks, like turning on a light switch. A dog is not a light switch, you have to continue the training EXACTLY the way the trainer told you. Life is now different for you when the dog comes back. You pay that kind of money, you better be in it to win it.
  • You never crate train your dog, so when it goes to the vet it has a meltdown when it’s put in the run or the fiberglass cage bank. It’s ripping out stitches, bloodying its nose on the bars, pooping and stepping in it, just spiraling out of control. Office staff can’t hear themselves think, the dog is making all the other animals in the clinic nervous. The panic continues overnight as vet techs try to come up with ideas to keep your dog comfortable and safe from self-mutilation. They don’t get paid enough. You give them a 1-star review because your dog’s eyes were all bloodshot when you picked it up, “it must have been squeezed or something.”
  • You never crate trained your dog. It’s had full run of the house at all times. But when you go on vacation, you put it in a boarding facility where it will be crated, secluded into a small room, or put in a run. It won’t be able to handle the drastic change of scenery. It stops eating. It gets diarrhea. I don’t care if Jesus Christ himself was running the boarding facility, there’s nothing that can calm your dog down. You give the boarding facility a 1-star review because your dog is freaked out and smells like feces/urine when you get it home. (Hire an in-home pet sitter.)
  • You hire an in-home pet-sitter. Pet sitters, as well as trainers and groomers, can take on or fire any client if the dog is dangerous or a threat unto itself (destructive separation anxiety). They carry insurance policies but they would prefer not to file a claim and have their rates go up (they’re small business owners and already pay outrageous taxes), so they play it as safe as possible. And they most definitely will not risk serious injury to themselves that would end their ability to hold any kind of job (or in the worst case, death.) Instead of giving a 1-star review to a pet-sitting company, try hiring a trainer that can work you through the behaviors that keeps your dog from living a stress-free life.
  • You get a brachycephalic breed and you let it get fat, or spoil it rotten to where it has separation anxiety. Because it’s a low-key dog you don’t bother to crate train it let alone obedience train it. After all, “they’re just a big lug!” You drop it off at the groomer and it has a panic attack every time – you know this and do nothing about it. The dog already can’t breathe, and with the added weight bearing down on its malformed body, the anxiety attack it has causes it to suffocate. The groomer calls you and tells you to come get it, they don’t want to be sued. You leave a 1-star review on the groomer’s social media/Yelp saying your dog was unfairly denied service.
  • You take your dog to the dog park and it gets mentally/physically damaged. You keep taking it to the dog park even though it hides under the picnic tables or gets behind your legs. “Get out there! Go on, play!” READ. YOUR. DOG. It doesn’t want to be there!
  • You put it on electronic fence and don’t think about the risks involved.
  • You put it on a tie-out by itself for hours with no protection/supervision, in essence pinning the dog down so it can’t defend itself if it had to (making it a target to free-roaming dogs or other stimuli). It just marinates in that stress, causing all kinds of behavior issues that are a struggle to fix. It can’t be walked because it acts on leash exactly like it does on a tie-out. Or worse, it hangs itself as it jumps over barrier or wraps it around something so tight making the item fall/strangle the dog.

You get an adult shelter or rescue dog…

  • No one knows the dog’s history. You don’t even know if you have the dog’s age correct, or breed mix for that matter. But you’re going to instantly integrate it into a household of established dogs because you’ve watched enough dog trainers on TV or YouTube. At first you’re lucky it was just occasional humping, possibly just a growl in passing or mild piloerection. But that one time you drop a potato chip on the ground, bend down to get it, and simultaneously a dog fight breaks out…you end up having to get stitches. The new dog is returned to the shelter with a bite history on its record. That never ends well. Instant integration is the worst stress for a dog, whether they show it or not, whether you want to admit it or not. (I know rescues who do this in the foster home and dogs are killed/euthanized from the outcome.) Dogs need a minute to even figure out what door they’re supposed to go out for potty breaks, where their food is and how often/when they’re going to eat, where they can find a safe spot to truly rest/be safe, and then get an idea of who in the heck YOU are. Even if there was no bite, just mere sabre-rattling amongst the dogs, you go ahead and put the dog in the bed with you that night along with an established dog(s) and hope for the best. A dog fight is in your future, or you’re personally going to receive the onslaught of redirection and get hurt. All of which could be avoided if you just give the dog a damn minute to breathe by setting up a crate routine and taking it super slow on the introductions. But no, you want this dog to instantly replace the dog you just lost because you’re so brokenhearted. And that’s completely unfair.
  • You feel sorry for the thin dog you adopted, let it get fat and its life deteriorates in every way, shape and form. You brag about how fat/big the dog is like it’s a testimony of how much you can love something.
  • You see a dog on Petfinder that is marked as “no kids.” You’re a newlywed couple, 23-yrs-old, got a good-paying job, got a house with a fenced-in yard, you’re ready. I reply to your application that the dog is marked “no kids” (and stated it clearly in the bio) because it has been severely damaged by kids in the previous home and will bite them (perfectly fine with everyone else, kids are a big fat no). Your reply back, “but we don’t have kids!” I reply back, “well, not yet.” You reply back, “I don’t understand why we can’t adopt this dog.  This is ridiculous! We’re qualified to own this dog per your description.” I reply back, “do you plan on having sex? Because that’s how children get here, often by surprise, and I’ll get the dog back after your child has been bitten. It’s my job to put this dog in a home where everyone will succeed.” (Okay, this entry doesn’t really fit this blog because the dog wasn’t placed in that situation, it’s just entertaining how self-absorbed people are and outrageous the potential devastation would be for that dog if I didn’t utilize discernment in my placements – some rescues would haphazardly adopt the dog out at Petsmart just to get it out of their house and get the adoption fee (over and over again). Oy. But this is a true story. I’ve got tons and tons of them.)
  • You get a dog because you’re in a troubled relationship with your significant other. You think a dog will fix everything instead of getting relationship counseling. Some dogs have worked miracles, but none are this good. You have an inkling that the relationship is on the outs, the dog is the last ditch effort. When the dog doesn’t cure all, those in the relationship go their separate ways, and the dog gets surrendered back to the shelter/rescue. The breakup is bad enough – returning the dog is excruciating. Be smart about this if you’re in this situation. Get real help, don’t heap that kind of pressure on an animal whose life hangs in the balance.
  • You’re in college and get a dog. You’re working, going to school, studying, going out with friends, dating around, etc. etc. etc…. Dog gets dumped on the mother when you move in with a boyfriend whose dog doesn’t like your dog, or when you move into an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs. And then you say, according to your latest social media post, you got a new puppy. Your mother still has your last dog. But wait a minute – I thought you couldn’t have a dog in this apartment? Hmmm… (Then rescues are criticized for not adopting dogs out to people under 25. Your frontal lobe hasn’t been developed, sweetie. We’ve all been young and dumb, that’s why we set these rules. That’s why no one rents cars to people under 25, and this is a living creature. Yes, I get that there are young adults who can handle dogs, you are a freak of nature because your parents raised you right. Take that as a compliment.)

Let’s say the dog makes it in a household to reach a ripe old age…

  • You don’t think that what ails them could be fixed or at least made more tolerable. “They’re just old.” Yep, they’re money pits on 4 legs the older they get. (So are we, by the way.) Supplements, an orthopedic dog bed, more frequent/appropriate/easier/quick grooming cuts so it’s not as stressful on their old body/mind when left at the groomer or carrying around a coat/long toenails that prevents proper mobility. Also, it would be a good idea to go the extra mile by hiring a pet-sitter instead of dumping them at the boarding facility when you travel for work or go on vacation (concrete floor is hard on the joints) making them feel vulnerable while you jet-set around living your life. They wait for you – you are all they have.
  • The old dog you got in college isn’t active enough for the kids you have now, so you dump it at the shelter so you can get a new puppy. [I am here to tell you that this type of person has no soul; they’re not human at all. They’re a beast. It would make you sick to know how many people are out there who are like this. Left in the arms of a stranger to be euthanized. You. Suck.]
  • After all they’ve endured (this entire list above), you can’t bring yourself to sit with them as they take their last breath (according to this article, vets say they look for you after you leave the room.). “It’s too hard.” Or maybe you’re too cheap to give them the dignity of “going out on a high” (as a friend of mine says) and prefer the dog to die on its own. We’re all going to die, and what you do with your dog will be what happens to you in your final moments. That’s how karma works, my friend.

 

So why did you get a dog? Or, being that Christmas is right around the corner, why are you getting a Christmas puppy? Have you thought long and hard through the next 10-18 years of your life as to what kind of changes you might run into that could possibly end up causing behavior issues in the dog you’re getting or situations that might cause you to surrender your dog? Do you have a schedule/set up that works well for the dog? Have you picked out a trainer to help you along in your journey with your dog? (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.)

For the people who are finding themselves in this position often, here’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson that I just love: “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” Train your dog. Not the next dog you get; train THIS dog. Figure out what it is that you’re doing wrong and correct it.

Ask yourself honestly – Are you prepared to be your dog’s defender/caretaker through life? Are you going to be on the same team? Are you really going to listen/care about its emotional state? This is crucial. As Temple Grandin says in her book Animals in Translation, “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain…You almost have to work with animals to see what a terrible emotion fear is for them. Even an animal who’s completely alone and giving full expression to severe pain acts less incapacitated than an animal who’s scared half out of his wits. Animals in terrible pain can still function; they can function so well they can act as if nothing in the world is wrong. An animal in a state of panic can’t function at all.” (pages 189-190) People go wild over alleged dog abuse or some training concepts (use of correction), but you never see them get as angry over someone keeping a dog locked in a state of fear from lack of socialization and training. Temple contributes our inability to grasp this to the different levels of frontal lobe functioning between dogs and humans. We have got to stop seeing what we want to see and start seeing the world through the dog’s eyes. We must work them through their issues and be on their side. Hire the qualified professionals to teach you how to help your dog through any fears it may have. (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.) Otherwise – DON’T GET A DOG. The dogs in shelters are dumped by those who easily give up and the backyard breeders who willy nilly sell puppies to them (it’s not the high-end breeders doing this, check out this link here to see what a proper breeder requires you to do in order to get one of his pups.) Go watch that very first video again and ask yourself who failed those dogs?

If you’re on the fence about getting a dog, or if this blog has freaked you out (good, that’s exactly how you should approach dog ownership), have you considered maybe fostering a dog if you are currently in a situation where you don’t know which direction your life is going to go? You’d save a life and learn a lot about yourself, a win-win. Take a tough one, hire a trainer, learn from it. The difficult dogs make you good and teach you a lot, then get the dog of your dreams when you’re ready.

Getting a dog should not be an easy decision. It’s a lot like having children – both are fully dependent on you. That’s a lot of pressure to take on, make certain you’re ready for the challenge.

If you’re currently struggling with a dog (or dogs), please contact a qualified trainer in your area. (See our website for a list of trainers we suggest.) Many people have overcome the same situation you’re in, it just takes effort and dedication. Carve that time out of your day, take this moment in life to learn something brand-new. If the trainer says it’s you, believe them, don’t just brush that off – a chance to grow in character is an opportunity that needs to be welcomed with open arms. Later on you will look back and laugh about the silly stuff you used to do, I promise, I’ve bee there countless times myself.

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