Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Education over Ego

There is a huge issue with dog overpopulation in our country today. There are many different theories and beliefs as to why this is, and there are many popularized methods as to how to reduce the amount of unwanted pets. 
Often, the focus is on rescue dogs versus dogs from breeders, a debate that has become very serious in the dog community. This debate is passionate on both sides, and causes a great deal of term oil, often between people who are all interested in the same goal; providing dogs with happy and healthy lives with loving families. 
I don't believe that the issue is whether to buy or rescue, I think the issue lies in the public's view of dog ownership, specifically how to attain a pet dog.
This is where I believe ego comes in to the picture. Many people understand that it is a wonderful thing to rescue a dog, but for those who decide they want to get a puppy from a breeder, they often end up looking for all of the wrong things. In an age where anything can be ordered online, and aesthetics are at the forefront of importance for many people, we all want a house full of beautiful things that we can get at the click of a button, or at the very least, a short shopping spree. This mentality has caused what is probably the worst thing to happen in dog breeding. The internet is littered with websites that allow you to order an adorable puppy with flashy rare colors, just by transferring some money and filling in some information. Want a puppy now? There are several to choose from! Red Merle? Blue eyes? Got it! Craigslist has a listing for a litter of cute puppies in the area! But these buyers rarely ask about the puppy's health, or the health of the parents. What about temperament? When that adorable puppy comes home how likely is it that the owner will want to deal with the stresses of puppyhood, or worse yet, adolescence? Often people select the breed of dog they want based on looks, or brief personality descriptions, and do little further research into wether or not that breed is best suited to their lifestyle. What if the breed selected is intended to hunt small animals and the family has a cat? What if the breed is intended to be protective and the family has guests over all the time? Considering that they went the quick route to get the puppy in the first place, it is unlikely that there was much thought process about how to deal with these things, or prepare for them in the first place.  Even worse, some people see their new puppy as an opportunity to make money in the future by breeding them and trying to make money off the pups (after all, they paid a pretty penny for their pup, didn't they?).
I'm not saying that everyone who orders a puppy via the Internet is a bad owner. Very often these people end up putting a lot of time and effort into their puppy and being wonderful owners, but considering the amount of dogs in shelters and rescues, clearly, some are not.
The issue that I see is that our society is so driven by ego that we often care more about looks and ease of accessibility than we do about doing our research and finding the right dog for our homes and a responsible breeder or rescue to attain that dog from.  

On top of this already dangerous mix of issues, many people don't realize what a responsible breeder is. Just because a breeder has a website, or has had dogs for many years, doesn't mean that they are a responsible breeder. The easiest way to tell is that a responsible breeder won't just take your money and give you a pup, which of course immediately makes them inconvenient for the fast paced ease of buying that we are all used to. Good breeders want to know about the home that their puppies are going to. You may have to answer tons of questions, give references, explain plans for the pup, including training, or even have a home check (or show pictures or video if the breeder isn't local).  These breeders health test their dogs, are generally active in some element of the dog world (dog shows, sports, or working activities that the breed is intended to do), and often have waiting lists for their pups. They are very selective about which dogs they choose to breed and why, and they don't breed very often. They will want to know all about the potential home, family, and plans that they have for the dog. They may even (heaven forbid), tell you that your family is not suited to the breed that they have and that you may have better success with a different kind of dog. These breeders will not let you breed their dogs in the future unless you have a serious interest and are willing to work with them, or another respected breeder as a mentor, and even then they may not agree. They have contracts that state these facts and many more. They are willing to take any puppy they produce back at any point in the dogs life if for some reason the home doesn't work out.
Think about it this way; if people ONLY purchased dogs from responsible breeders, we wouldn't have an overpopulation problem. 
Don't let your ego decide the next 4 legged member of your family. Educate yourself and decide to buy responsibly, or rescue!
Education over Ego.

Potty Training

I get a ton of questions about potty training, but I will try to keep it simple here.

First, let's address the most common misconceptions about potty training dogs:
1) This is one all of us have heard:
When the puppy potties inside the house, rub their nose in it.
•Okay, so let's break this down...
If you are potty training a human toddler, and you let your guard down for a moment and leave them without a diaper on, and they start peeing on your living room carpet, what would you do? 
-Would you rub their nose in it? Of course not! That's horrible! 
-Okay, so what would you do?
   *Probably pick them up and run them to the nearest toilet.

When you think about it in these terms it makes a lot of sense to run the toddler to the nearest toilet, in part because it will decrease the mess, but also because it will communicate to the toddler that potty goes in the toilet, not on the carpet! 

•So now, here is the question: if it is so logical to run the toddler to the toilet rather that rubbing their nose in the mess, why do we think it would be so different from a puppy?
-Do we think that puppies are somehow smarter than human toddlers and can perceive our meaning when we punish them harshly for soiling the floor inside the house? 
   **I personally think it is quite obserd to believe that our puppies are smarter than human children.
-Do we believe that showing them their mess is somehow linked to how their natural dog behavior works? Does the mother dog somehow manage to push the puppy's face into the mess that they made in the den in order to encourage them to go outside? 
   **No, by the way, she doesn't. She will remove the waste by eating it herself...not something that I think most humans would like to do.

•Alright, so let's go back to how we would teach our human toddlers to potty in the correct place, 
We would move them from the incorrect place, and take them to the appropriate place. Well, this seems to make a lot of sense, so why don't we do this with our puppies? 


**Here is the truth of the matter; why the method of rubbing a dog's nose in their mess has persisted for so long:
Many dogs will associate that having their nose rubbed in their own mess is a negative thing (obviously), and they are likely to associate the act of pottying with something that YOU interpret as negative. Therefore, they would prefer to potty somewhere that you cannot observe them. If we are lucky, and have a small home, they might figure out that the best way to avoid you seeing them potty is by going outside!! In some instances this may work, but often it can be interpreted as purely out of sight, and this can mean in another room, behind a couch, under a table, etc. 

**Is your dog pottying "behind your back"? In a place you cannot see? In another room, or when you are not looking? This is because you have taught them that pottying is an unpleasant thing that you don't want to observe. This means that it will be much harder to teach them where you WANT them to go, as they have associated pottying with a negative element when it's around YOU. 

Alright, so now, let's readdress the toddler pottying on the living room floor. I already know what many of you will say: "why would you let a toddler who is not potty trained, run around your living room without a diaper on!" 
And how right you are! So why would you let an untrained puppy run around in your living room? They are not magically more inclined to understand you than a toddler. They need the same rules and restrictions! 

So now, let's get to the good stuff!
Here's what you should do:
•puppies should have an exercise pen, or area blocked off for them, where they have access to a potty pad in case they need to go when you are not watching them. 
•puppies should be watched when they are roaming ANY area so that you can quickly pick them up and take them outside if they need to potty.
•puppies should have multiple trips outside to the appropriate potty place so that they can learn where they should go. Just like human toddlers, we should encourage and praise them when they go potty in the correct place!
•puppies should understand how to go into, and be left in a crate so that they can start building the muscles involved in bladder control as they grow up.

**you can easily teach your puppy to potty on cue by taking them outside, waiting for them to go, and then naming the behavior "go potty" as they do their business. 

It's time to get over the archaic methodologies used with family dogs. There is no reason for us to treat puppies in such a barbaric and illogical way. 

Let's use common sense to train our dogs. They deserve that much. 

Please comment with questions or concerns about potty training.

Thank you,