Protect your dog (yes, you are your dog’s keeper)

One of the first things I tell people when they ask me about pretty much anything concerning dogs is, “Don’t set your dog up for failure.” It’s really a very simple concept. Most of the situations I see/hear about where dogs have done something wrong could have been easily prevented by the owners. The most common instances involve children, and then strangers.

1. Know your dog

You would think this one is a given, but it’s not. I meet so many people who genuinely don’t know shit about their dogs. I’m not talking about breed, age, name, that stuff. I’m talking about what makes your dog tick. What makes them happy, what makes them nervous, or what sets them off. Which situations your dog can or cannot handle.

When socializing my dogs, especially my rehab dogs, I do push them out of their comfort zones. I do it very gently, very slowly, and I know the moment my dog is officially “done” and needs to go home. I also know when my dog is acting like an asshole and needs a time out.

For your dog’s sake and the sake of the people around you, know what your dog can or cannot handle before throwing them in the fire. It will end better for everyone concerned.

2. Know canine body languageC--Users-Melissa-Desktop-fearposterpic-resized-600

I mentioned this in my dog park rant; it’s all about the body language (insert The Little Mermaid Ursula’s voice, please)! This goes along with #1. It’s really not that hard to understand basic body language; just go watch a few YouTube videos and read some informational articles, and you can at least skimp by. I’m not asking you to be a behaviorist; I’m just asking you to not be an idiot.

Knowing your dog’s body language will allow you to remove it from situations that could be dangerous for the dog or for humans/other dogs around it. Signs of stress, fear, or anger will occur before a dog reacts negatively. When I’m out and about with my dogs, I know every move and sound they make, and what those actions mean. That knowledge has ended a lot of skirmishes before they even started. Dogs are complicated creatures, but they’re not that complicated, if you as the owner will just not be too dense to figure it out.

3. Don’t be afraid/embarrassed to take precautions

I think this is one a lot of dog owners struggle with. Let’s say you’re out in public, and a stranger asks if their child can pet your dog. You can say no, and you probably should! It may make you look like an asshole, but at least you’re the asshole who’s not being sued because your dog bit a child. Also, if you don’t know for absolute 100% certain that your dog friggin’ loves children, please just say no. And if you do say yes, go back up to #1-2 and refresh your memory.IMG_3961

I took a foster dog to the clinic to be spayed, and upon turning her over to the vet tech, I told the tech that if they for any reason thought the dog might fear-bite, just go ahead and muzzle her. The tech looked at me like I was the meanest dog owner ever, but I would rather the dog spend the afternoon in a muzzle than bite a tech. It doesn’t make you a bad owner, and it doesn’t mean you have a terrible dog; it just means you’re using your brain in a situation you might not be able to predict the outcome in.

There was a situation recently in NC where a foster dog with a known bite history was taken out for a “socialization outing” with the foster/trainer and another individual. That outing ended with a bite to the face and a dead dog, shot by a police officer. I won’t voice my opinion on whether the dog should have been out in public or not, but I will assert that had that dog been in a basket muzzle, he would probably be alive today. Play it safe – dogs are too powerful to gamble with anyone’s safety.

4. Protect your dog

Why do you need to protect your dog? Because if you don’t protect them, they’re going to protect themselves. More often than not, when a dog protects itself, it’s going to be euthanized.  There’s been an email floating around about an eight year old Aussie whose owners are throwing out on the curb – why? The dog bit a child, when the child pushed on her bad hip. This dog lashed out in fear and in pain, and I’m not saying that’s okay, but I am saying that those owners failed that poor dog. They didn’t protect her. Eight years old, had been with the family her whole life and probably would have laid her life down to protect them, but they didn’t protect her from the child and now they want her gone. (They also apparently did a really shitty job of protecting their child, by the way.)

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Protect your dog from children, protect it from strangers, and protect it from other animals. It’s not cute and it’s not funny to let your toddler crawl all over your dog and pull their ears. Your dog is not going to “get over it” if you throw it into a dog park with a bunch of big, rowdy dogs that scare the crap out of it. If a stranger walks up and puts its hands in your dogs face, ruffles its ears, and slaps it on the ribs, it’s your job to say, “Hey bud, that’s not okay.” Don’t allow people to disrespect your dog.

Dogs can’t talk, and they can’t make decisions for themselves. I’m sure they would if they could, but they just can’t. It’s your responsibility as the owner to be their voice and their safety net. There are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners.

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What you didn’t know about rescue (but really need to)

IMG_1803 As a sort of follow-up to last week’s post that got a lot of people all hot n’ bothered, I figured I would stir up some discussion on what exactly is the purpose of rescue. This post applies to most dog rescues; I fully understand that there are indeed rescue groups who do take it upon themselves to fill the niches provided below. Those groups are few and far between, however.

Dog owners tend to have a lot of misconceptions about rescue groups and animal control, and what their job is in society. Spoiler alert: it’s not to fix your problems.

1. We’re not rehabilitators

So you got a dog, and now that dog is causing you trouble. It’s snapping at company, herding/nipping your kids, tearing up the house, whatever… The likely reason is that you didn’t train it right, didn’t do your research, got a dog from a crappy breeder, or all of the above. Maybe you genuinely did everything right, and it’s just the dog. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter, because either way it’s not our job to fix your basket case. Don’t email me saying, “He deserves better,” or “She’s a wonderful dog, she just needs a farm,” or the like. You’re right, the dog probably does deserve better, but why do you think I’m going to risk getting my hand bitten off, or my dogs attacked, or my drywall eaten? Take some personal responsibility, change your methods, get a trainer, or, if the dog is a serious threat, do the right thing and have the poor thing humanely euthanized yourself.

2. We’re not your rehoming shortcut

By that I mean, if you decide your dog needs a home, do it yourself. It’s really not our job. We will gladly list your dog as a referral, share, spread the word, direct adopters your way, etc. We are constantly inundated with dogs from animal shelters that will DIE if they don’t have foster space. You took on the responsibility of owning that dog – take the responsibility of finding it a home if it needs it. And if your dog has some issue that keeps you from doing this, see #1.

(While I’m on this topic – it’s also not your local animal control facility’s job to find your unwanted dog a home. Animal control exists to hold and place strays, and protect the public from dangerous animals. If you surrender your dog to animal control, they will kill it in 24 hours.)

3. We’re not in the “business” of rescue

Those of us who are doing rescue ethically are not making any money off this venture. In fact, we’re probably losing money. Dogs are expensive, and we don’t exactly get the cream of the crop as far as health goes. So, no thank-you, we are not interested in you “donating” your dog to our organization (unless, of course, you want to “donate” a litter of purebred, vetted puppies). Our dogs are not “for sale,” they’re for adoption, and we have plenty, thank you very much.

4. We’re not your safety net

You didn’t spay your dog, and now you have eight wiggling bundles of joy in your bathroom (or your backyard, depending on what caliber of person you are). Guess what! That’s your problem, not ours. You’re the dum-dum who broke the number one rule of dog ownership.

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Zelda and Mako were “accidents” – Zelda was born in the shelter and Mako is deaf, so his breeder dumped him.

Similarly (this goes out to you backyard-breeder asshats) – we’re not here to take the puppies you can’t sell. We’re definitely not here to take your inbred, handicapped puppies that were born because you were either too stupid to know better or too greedy to care. If you want me to take your unwanted puppies, you better as hell sign an agreement to have that bitch spayed, or give me her as well. I will not encourage or enable your breeding habits.

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5. We’re not retirement communities

If you send me an email, and it says, basically, “Our dog is 12 years old, and we love her very much, but we just don’t have the time to give her what she needs,” I will pull out my voodoo doll and stick a dozen pins in your eyes. You are the lowest of the low. Tell me, please, what you think we’re going to do with your poor old dog.

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Cyrus is eight – ancient for a Great Dane.

I’m not sure what la-la land you live in, but there aren’t exactly lines out the door for senior dogs. You’re going to honestly sit and tell me that that dog is such a burden on your life that you can’t handle the last few months, maybe a year or so, of its life? I’ll tell you what – I’d hate to be your parents. Mom’s too old to be bothered with, just leave her in the bed to fester. Seriously, you disgust me.

 

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Bruce’s owner gave him up because she was dying.

Okay, I’m sure you’re asking by this point, so what the hell are we here for? That’s very simple, my friend. We’re here for the homeless, for the abused, and for the sick. Our job is to take dogs from shelters that don’t deserve to spend the last week of their lives in a loud, smelly, scary concrete prison cell. The dogs that can be rehomed with families that genuinely appreciate their presence.  The dogs that have never known love in their entire lives – only fear, hate, and abuse. We’re also here to help the people who love, cherish, and want their animals but life just won’t let them. For example, the elderly lady who’s being moved to assisted living, or the single man or woman who lost their job and can barely feed themselves, much less a four legged companion. Doesn’t your plight of “just don’t have time” or “we have a new baby” sound pretty pathetic next to all of that?

Dogs – all pets, actually – are lifetime commitments. You are their lives; you are all they care about and all they have. Stop shirking responsibility, and don’t try to rely on third parties to do all the heavy lifting for you. You thought you were good enough for that dog in the first place, now prove it.