Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 2, 2014

Information Overload?

Posted at 12:40PM - Comments: (4)

I’ve mentioned before that I have a standing offer to all my friends and relatives to help them find the dog of their dreams – from out of the ever-changing, ever-crowded population of dogs at my local shelter. I will drop what I’m doing at the drop of a hat to go check out a likely candidate, and when I lead new volunteer orientations, I spend much of the time scoping out the dogs in the kennels and wracking my brain for people I know who might make a good match for the dogs I like best.

When I do make a prospective match, I often keep the dog at my home for a week or two, doing a little training (so the dog makes the best possible first impression) and getting to know him or her well, so I can offer the most accurate pre-adoption advice regarding getting ready for the dog and the best “tech support” possible once we have transferred custody of the dog.

Lately, I’ve been working with a friend who was looking for a nice young dog to join his family of three: himself, his wife, and their two-year-old daughter. In our conversations before and after finding a dog for them, keeping the dog for a couple of weeks, and turning the dog over to them, we’ve exchanged dozens of instant messages, emails, and phone calls. We’ve discussed making sure the dog doesn’t escape until the dog bonds to you, keeping the dog safe from the child and the child safe from the dog, conditioning the dog to feel as comfortable as possible around children, using a “nothing in life is free” program (asking the dog to sit before letting her in or out or throwing her ball for her, etc.), housetraining, diet, dealing with other dogs on walks, when and where you can go off-leash, diet, and more. I told my friend, who hasn’t owned a dog for decades, “Are you getting the impression that I’m a little nuts, trying to shove so much information about so many things down your throat?” His tactful comment was that “a lot has changed since he last had a dog.”

Today I saw the most appropriate meme on Facebook – actually on the Facebook page of WDJ’s Training Editor (and trainer), Pat Miller. It said, “The more wisdom you attain and the more conscious you become, the crazier you will appear to others.” I resemble that remark!

But does it ever occur to any of you how odd it is that people with only the tiniest bit of knowledge about a certain animal’s behavior, learning, diet, or health management bring an animal of another species home -- to live in their houses, sleep in their beds, play with their children?! When you think about it too long, it’s actually quite stunning – not unlike if you found a fox or badger or polar bear cub and brought it home, and tried to keep it based on what I knew from childhood books and casually read magazine articles and random TV programs about those animals.

I really want people to know more about the dogs they bring into their homes when they do so, in order to set them – the dogs, AND the people – up for success. I don’t want anyone to get lost, bitten, or euthanized. If I appear a tad crazy . . . that’s why.

Comments (4)

Too bad not everyone has a friend like you! (Dog and human alike) . Our first rescue was a 9 month old Rottweiler who, it turned out, had pneumonia. He was so calm and sweet - and after we nursed him back to health, he was very different! I was never able to understand him, but we loved him for 9 + years until he passed away in his sleep this past January. I still miss his quirky self, but would probably have been a better pet parent if I was more aware of his personality.

Posted by: mamalyd | June 3, 2014 11:47 AM    Report this comment

It seems the more you know the more you realize you DON'T know! It also amazes me how confident people are getting a new dog. We are getting a 9 wk old standard schnauzer in a couple days. I am both excited & scared. We want to raise this little puppy to help him to be the best dog he can be..it seems it is so easy to mess up.

Posted by: joanne.c | June 3, 2014 11:03 AM    Report this comment

I totally agree with this article. I got my first dog, a Yorkie - wow - almost 2 1/2 years ago (I can't believe it has been that long!!). I did buy her from a reputable breeder because I wanted to know her history, meet the parents, meet the breeder, etc. It took me 5 years before I finally settled upon a breeder that I trusted and actually took a LONG time to speak with me and get to know ME before she agreed to sell me a dog. I also live alone and work full time, so that was an issue for me as well.

Anyway, I read everything I could get my hands on about Yorkies, I joined forums, I read blogs, I posted questions, I bought books. I worried that even though I was able to come home for lunch every day and play with her, she would still be alone too much.

I finally got my doggie home and everything I thought I knew, went totally out the window. I took her to training classes, I socialized her, I practiced training her - I did everything I thought was right, and again, she didn't act like she was "supposed to". I finally realized that she is a dog and no matter how much I try and learn, she is still a different species than me.

She is almost 3 years old and is the love of my life. I wouldn't trade the he!! I went through with her for the first year I had her. She has finally calmed down a bit (still a crazy, hyper little Yorkie), and is still very willful at times, but my persistence paid off, and I am still learning about her and I still read everything I can about her breed and dogs in general. She is a very sweet, loving, good dog, so good that I have been able to take her to work with me since about 6 months ago. She just lies in her bed and watches everything. Doesn't make one peep.

I believe in gaining as much knowledge as possible about everything ESPECIALLY if one is going to bring an animal into one's home.

Posted by: Sportschick | June 3, 2014 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Editor, Wow, this sounds like a similar situation my wife and I and our two year old daughter went through. To think of going to a shelter and choosing a dog and bringing it home without the invaluable advice of a guide like yourself is unthinkable, really. The fact is that everyone is spread out on a wide spectrum of doggieness, and there are some, like us, who know very little, and I guess the good thing is we're willing to admit it and not impose our ignorance on an "innocent" dog. To have a mediator like yourself means a lot, so we hope that all the lucky souls within your sphere of influence take you up on your offer. They won't be disappointed! I know we aren't... Thank you.

Posted by: MaryMaryQuiteContrary | June 3, 2014 10:03 AM    Report this comment

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