The number one reason people surrender their dogs to animal shelters is behavior issues, according to a recent article, “Why People Abandon Animals,” by Lisa Towell, a blogger for PETA Prime (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). It’s the number two reason for cats, she says.
While other organizations and studies show that the cost of veterinary care, affordable housing being unfriendly to pets, lack of time to spend with their pets, and other reasons are higher on the lists than behavior, Towell writes that some people aren’t truthful about the behavior issues because they don’t want to hurt the animals’ chances of being adopted which can then cause problems for shelter staffs and the animals’ new families.
Behavior issues run the gamut from aggression to fearfulness to barking to inappropriate elimination and more. Most behavior issues can be corrected, though not all. Pet owners need to understand not only the genetics and innate behaviors of dog breeds and their needs, but also how much time and what type of environment they can give their pets in order to have a happy and rewarding relationship.
As Barbara Davis, owner of BADDogs Inc. LLC in Corona, CA, points out, “Dogs are like humans, each one is different.”
She says the three reasons she hears why dogs are taken to shelters are they don’t know where to go to the bathroom, they don’t know how to walk on a leash, and they don’t come when called. Yes, behavior issues.
The mission of Foster Army Animal Rescue (FAAR) is to rescue vulnerable at-risk companion animals from animal control facilities, place them in foster homes while rehabilitating them medically and behaviorally, then see that they’re adopted into loving forever homes.
To enhance the behavior component of this mission, FAAR recently applied for and received a grant from Maddie’s Fund to provide the opportunity for Twelve Camacho, FAAR’s co-founder and operations manager, to take the needed courses to become a certified dog trainer. He is enrolled in a 3-level program at BADDogs which includes apprentice, assistant and instructor. At the end of the program he will take the test given by Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
“We want to continue building a sustainable foster program by giving our foster volunteers knowledge and instruction to help them work with the dogs in their care,” Camacho explains. “This also will help us recruit and retain more volunteers who may not be experienced or comfortable with behavior issues.
“In the end it will enable our dogs to be more adoptable, thus allowing us to pull more treatable behavior cases from municipal sheltersso that we can save more lives.”
“Once I’m certified, we will offer training to people who adopt from us and provide counsel and training to people who are having problems with their dogs and may be considering relinquishing them due to behavior issues,” he adds. “By keeping dogs out of the shelter system, we can help reduce the euthanasia rate.”
Dog training classes and methods used by trainers vary greatly, resulting in confusion for pet owners and leading to both good and bad experiences for people and their pets.
“Most trainers are self-taught through reading and seminars causing them to have diverse techniques, experience and abilities,” says Davis, who’s been training professionally since 1985 and founded BADDogs in 2004. “And now people with pets go on the Internet…”
While there can be some good basic advice to be found on the Internet, people using online sources for pet training need to keep in mind that anyone can post content and claim to be an expert, so going to websites of reputable companies and organizations is best. However, because dogs, owners and household environments differ, it’s wise to at least speak with someone knowledgeable in dog behaviors and attend training classes, if possible, to address a particular dog’s behavior.
BADDogs provides training utilizing the concept of LIMA(least invasive, minimally aversive) methods. The trainers do not use any type of force, coercion or physical corrections. Choke collars, prong/pinch collars and shock collars are not used.
Free Training for Rescues
Davis offers free dog training to the local rescue community and welcomes rescues to contact her to discuss their needs. She says half of the participants in her group classes at her facility in Corona are from shelters and rescue organizations.
“I look for rescues I can build a relationship with and which have reasonable views about getting animals adopted,” she explains, “ones that are ethical and really want to help animals and the community.”
For more information on BADDogs Inc., visit the company’s website baddogsinc.com, and watch this newsletter for future announcements about FAAR’s dog training services.
Barbara Davis’s 5 Tips for Dog Adopters
• Always assume what you see (at the shelter) is what you get. She advises: consider breed characteristics and needs, and consider the dog’s behavior and size in relation to the home environment. You can’t turn a Husky into a German Shepherd.
• What you expect to be the transition period for the dog to adjust to its new home…double or triple that time.
• Expect dogs to cost money (e,g,, food, supplies, toys, medical care, training, pet sitting/boarding).
• Think of training as an investment as opposed to an expense, and learn techniques you can do at home to continue the training and work on your dog’s behavior.
• You get back what you put into your dog. Treat your dog like a family member, not a piece of furniture. Pay attention to and interact with your dog.