They Just Didn’t Value the Dog: Why so Many Dogs End up in Shelters, and What the Issue Really Is

I am not the first person to recognize this. Gary Wilkes who writes about animal behavior addressed this in a recent Groomer to Groomer magazine.   He also addressed how  professional dog groomers can  help their clients address behavior issues.  There is a problem we can’t address, however: it’s  how clients regard their own dogs.  do they regard them as playthings, for amusement, or are they bonded to their pets?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, because I  work at a dog daycare business, and I am shocked at how many dogs get mid day meals.  Why would a dog  coming just for daycare—to play—need a meal in the middle of the day.  Why does this matter>?  It matters because  the best way you can bond with your dog is to feed him.  True, some dogs are not food motivated, but  they  know who prepares their food. They can smell YOU on their dish.  If they know nothing else, they know YOU are the giver of life.

When we train dogs, we talk about high value treats.  This is usually meat or cheese—something  moist and possibly messy.  Not what they get every day.  When a dog has behavior issues, many trainers suggest hand feeding the dog to  build the bond.  Yet, we have  all the clients, every day, who are requesting not that their dogs get a dog cookie, but their actual meal. they are, in effect, asking us to bond with their dog!

Some of these people just don’t know, most don’t care.  Most over feed;  more food is love.  There is no logic.  Just people assuaging their guilt at not spending time with the dog.

We have clients who fell in love with the way their dog looks, but won’t make the time to train the dog.  Or, they spoil the dog.  Sometimes,  one partner wanted the dog, and the other ‘half’ went along with the choice as appeasement, never dreaming how unhappy he’d be with the choice (I am finding this more and more with designer dogs, particularly Doodles).

Recently, in Chicago,  we’ve made it illegal to sell commercially bred  dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores.  A county -wide ban was  also passed, but is being revisited  due to pet industry lobbying our county commissioners, and apparently paying them off to get them to change their minds—asking them to RESCIND THEIR VOTE!  The  explanation to rescind the ban is that   if people can’t buy pets in pet shops, they will go on the internet, and make worse choices. This hardly seems possible. It seems that most people who buy a dog aren’t really thinking at all.  In fact, I wonder how many go to rescue events and  impulsively  choose one with a sad story. Then, I wonder how many stay adopted.

What I  questioned to the commissioners  was how many businesses would go under rather than change their business models, and how many  living wage (meaning being able to pay a mortgage and property taxes)jobs would be lost—and how much tax revenue do they generate…is it enough to  pay  for our dog pounds  which take in the  impulsively bought pets—particularly rabbits around Easter?

Unfortunately, because the  veterinary societies —these are doctors, mind you—-are telling the commissioners that not ALL the breeders are bad, that  there should be no ban on selling  pets as livestock.  Keep in mind that  veterinarians these days make much more money  off these poorly bred and cared for animals than off of  pet owners who love and care for their  pets.  Sad, but true.

We are addressing a cruel industry  in this case, selling  to  people who wouldn’t have bothered to actually  research the various sources for getting a pet, or even if the kind of pet they ended up buying was actually what they wanted.  This also leaves out  the  huge problem of backyard breeders, whom NOBODY considers breeders!  Lots of opportunities for cruelty and neglect produced by these  folks.  The irony remains that all the people involved in rescue from shelters and pounds are condemning ‘breeders’.  All I know is that none of the breeders I know—the ones showing dogs, are contributing to this  problem:  they are taking back—-often buying back—dogs they bred. The backyard breeders?  They are off the hook because the rescue  volunteers  really don’t understand that they are the problem!

Please start the conversations:  with your own veterinarian, at the dog park, with your friends and neighbors. This is how we will affect change.  Will  more dogs be saved?  Not in the short run.; this is a long run type of  problem.



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