Monday, December 28, 2009

Dog rescue: you're doing it wrong

Actually, I don't have any faith in the concept of "dog rescue", any more than "off-the-track thoroughbreds." Unless the "rescuer" has some serious knowledge of problem dogs (or horses, as the case may be) and a track record of improving the problems, "rescue" is really just moving the dog from one set of clueless people to another. And I'm not even convinced that the average "rescuer" is particularly well-meaning.

One "rescued" dog I know personally was cute as a puppy, and turned into a gigantic, high-energy dog. His people didn't walk him and had no time for dog training. He chewed things and peed in the house. So, friends of the family "rescued" the dog. They also never walk him, or the other two dogs in the house. They do marginally more training. The dog still chews things. The peeing-in-the-house problem, however, was solved by having him tied up outside all day. Swell.

Another family decided they wanted a specific breed of dog, because the man of the house had one as a kid and wanted the same breed, to hunt with. The woman wasn't sure that "that breed is good with kids." Hmmmmm... First of all, no dog, let alone breed of dog, is "good with kids." Either your kids know how to handle dogs safely, or they don't. Considering this woman finds it very cute when her kid points a loaded pellet gun at her, I'm thinking, no dog is safe around her kids. Second, when people want a hunting dog, they go to a breeder of hunting dogs, not to a rescue. I saw an ad for puppies once, it said "dam is exceptionally quiet in the hunting blind". That, obviously, is what you want to know about your hunting dog. That he's bred by a hunter, from parents who have been hunted over and done a good job. If you're looking for a rescue to hunt with, you probably know jack about hunting with a dog, and more importantly, you're too cheap to support a responsible breeder of good hunting dogs. Yay, you.

Unfortunately, they did find that particular breed of dog, more or less, in a rescue. They "rescued" it. It had undisclosed medical issues and they put it down after two weeks.

Another family had two shibas, not particularly well handled to begin with. They "rescued" a much larger dog that looked like a bird dog. Two mistakes: one, don't "rescue" a problem dog if your own aren't particularly well handled to begin with, and two, don't get a dog that needs way more exercise than the ones you already have.

The bird dog turned out to enjoy chasing smells and creatures. Gasp! Shocking! The person spent weeks obsessing about "what breed of dog hunts squirrels" and what on earth could cause a dog to dig after a scent. Meanwhile, the dog had more and more behaviour problems. The people chose not to hire a behaviourist, because they couldn't find one with whom they agreed. Now usually I'd be down with that, because it's unclear what makes a person a "professional dog behaviourist" other than their own business cards, however, if you're so clueless that you can't understand why your dog chases scents, maybe you should take someone else's word for it. However beside the point it will be, it can't be any worse than your ideas.

In the end they devised the solution of overfeeding the dog, which succeeded in putting weight on her but not in solving her behavioural problems. Then they returned the dog to the "rescue" organization.

The only successful dog "rescue" story I know is my former next-door neighbour. She wanted my dog. (Of course. Everyone loves Tinky-Winky.) Instead she ended up adopting a basset from another neighbour who had one too many dogs. Within a week, the next-door neighbour came knocking on my door, near tears because her dog wasn't house-trained, pulled when walking, stuck her head in the fridge whenever the door was opened, and otherwise made a nuisance of herself every two seconds. I told her the word of Cesar and had her read his books. Now she and her basset actually live happily ever after. But then again, she's a very smart and very teachable person.

You're only "rescuing" a dog if you can handle it well. If you don't understand a thing about the average dog, let alone problem dogs, all you're doing is stroking your ego at the dog's expense.

Bad "rescues" piss me off.


marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Mongoose said...

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy it.