Monday, October 31, 2011

Behavioral Problems

It is not a surprise to me how many pets are surrendered based on behavioral issues. It is the reason Cesar Milan stays in business, and so widely popular, and why a huge amount of my business is dedicated to this topic. I have two staff members who specialize in "Behavior Modification." There is no shortage of business for them, but there is a HUGE shortage of clients willing to take responsibility and put forth the necessary time and effort in "correcting" the problem. In almost ALL of the cases the problem is not with the pet it is with the pet parent. There needs to be as much re-training of the owner as the pet. If there isn't a full commitment from everyone in the family to understand, identify, and start modifying actions, situations, and reactions the behavior training is unlikely to work.

I literally just got off of the phone with an owner who called to try to surrender his 8 yr old Lab mix dog to us. After a lengthy discussion and a few modifications in the underlying story it was revealed to me that they want to surrender their dog, (that they have had for 8 years, and adopted from the Humane Society) because they "got a new dog a few years ago, and the dogs have never really gotten along." The husband called to investigate his options with his dog, but stated to me that his wife "is done with her." It seems that the dog in question bit her on the lip because they had "been loving on the other dog." He further explained that the arguing between the dogs has been ongoing for the whole time they have had the new dog. (Point number 1, the longer you wait the harder it is to fix. This goes to every problem in life, doesn't it?) The owners have tried separating the dogs, crating one while the other is out, but the underlying anxiety has never been resolved. I also think that the dog he wants to surrender was his dog before the owners got together and the new dog is "their dog." I have a hard time with this. Do we treat children from prior marriages differently than the children from the "new marriage." Jesus, I hope not! Your Old dog is just as important as your new dog. And why are any of us surprised that a behavioral problem arose? (OK, silly question to myself, probably both are silly questions to myself.) Point number 2, if you treat your kids different, 2 or 4 legged you will probably get some resentment. The husband that called is feeling guilty about giving up his dog. If he wasn't he would have just surrendered her at the shelter. I did point out to him that a "surrendered dog, in most cases, especially an older, larger breed dog, often has a death sentence" if "surrendered." He was not aware of the fact that in the U.S. alone we euthanize millions of unwanted pets every year. He truly had no idea. Point number 3. If it is so easy for you to give away a pet that you have had for 8 years, why do you think the rest of society will be more responsible and compassionate than you are? I say that knowing full well, that much of society has a big generous heart and often does step up for a pet/child/person in need. I did want to ask him how many other dogs he walked by the last time he was at the shelter? It is ALWAYS full. There isn't a waiting list for dogs or cats, there is a freezer in the back full of "unwanteds", "unadoptables",  "behavioral issues", "surrendered", "caution/bites", "found/no owner."

I tried many times to help this owner understand that his dog was not exhibiting these unwanted behaviors as a personal attack against one or both of them. She was merely unhappy about something and trying to communicate that with you. Dogs don't speak in the human language, they speak in their own language. It is our job to provide them with a healthy, rounded home and environment, and understand that they have their own unique needs. This includes food, water, shelter, emotionally enriching, ability to exercise, mentally and emotionally stimulating, and free from fear and aggression from their owners. We all deserve this.

Before getting off of the phone I told him that he needed to sit down with his wife and go over the things that we had discussed. If they both weren't willing to commit to the time and effort needed this wasn't going to work. He told me that his wife wasn't "forcing him to get rid of his dog, but if he chose to keep her she had to go to the basement and not be a part of the family." How is this an an option? I urged him to try to call a rescue and place her, or call me back before that became an option, (or the euthanasia). How can that be fair? or be a life?

I also told him that I would worry, and keep his chart out, so I could check up on them later.

My gut tells me that this family can't put the time or effort forth needed, and that this dog, like so many others will become one of those shameful US pet euthanasia statistics.

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