Information Overload?

conditioning the dog to feel as comfortable as possible around children

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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.

Information Overload?

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.

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