October is "Adopt A Shelter Dog" Month. Ken Desch trains for a major pet store chain and also runs his own program, Ken Cares for K9s.
Desch knows that when these adopted shelter dogs, or any dog for that matter, get off to a good start with training, dog and owner will be much happier and the placement is most likely to be permanent.
Desch emphasized that dogs and their new owners need time to adjust to each other. This adjustment period should take about two weeks but it is good to allow up to four. The dog needs time to get used to a new place, new people and a new set of rules.
Dogs that are adopted have a past that we do not understand. They have been rejected, maybe abused, often neglected. We need to begin from where they are. Because of their past, rescue dogs are frequently afraid of men and/or children. These issues must be dealt with. That does not mean that they will not trust a man or child again, but it does require extra patience. Once that trust is gained, it will be there and you will have a friend for life.
These dogs may never have been with other dogs. Possibly a shelter dogay have come from a very loving home and suddenly was torn from that home due to illness or death. He will be confused as to why he no longer has his former loving owner and he will be hesitant to form an attachment even though he wants to. This dog also needs time, patience and love.
"Those dogs who get training are rarely returned" said Desch. Not only does it provide some basic obedience rules for the dog, but training also helps form a bond between owner and dog.
Good behavior must be constantly praised. We are so quick to correct unacceptable behavior, but we forget to reinforce the good behavior. Dogs become so accustomed to hearing "no," they think it is their name. If good behavior is not reinforced, the dog, (it also applies to children,) has no comfort zone. He needs to know which of his actions are acceptable so that he can do them more often. That gives him confidence. If a dog learns that certain actions make the owner angry and lead to unfavorable results, and other actions lead to pats, treats, praise and acceptance, he will naturally do more of what brings good results. If a dog only receives negative responses from his person, he finally decides that no behavior on his part is acceptable and therefore, there is no need to try.
Contrarily, a dog that lives in the back yard and gets no attention at all will do what ever it takes to get any attention he can. If the only way to get attention is by bad behavior such as constant barking, he will do this. He is craving companionship.
Training classes for rescue dogs should be small, ideally 5 to 6 dogs, so that individual problems can be dealt with. The handler should be taught to teach his dog how to sit, stay, walk nicely on a leash, settle and to come when called. Desch refers to the come when called as the Christmas Command. The dog should run to the owner when hearing the word "come" like a child on Christmas morning, happily and expecting good things.
Training makes all the difference with any dog. Desch says, "It is never too early and it is never too late, but early is better." All dogs, whether from a shelter or breeder, purebred or mix, need training. Training provides both the experience of socialization and learning the rules. "We need to teach our dogs what we expect from them. The dog must know -- "This is what I have to do to get a treat, a pat and praise."
More pointers from Desch will appear in future columns through the month of October.
The recent spay and neuter clinic sponsored by the Payson Humane Society provided neutering for more than 60 dogs and cats. Anyone who gets their pet neutered deserves a pat on the back for doing their part in curbing overpopulation.
During October, I would like to tell some success stories of adoptions or even unfortunate stories that may help others. Please email or write me at the address below to share your story.
The Pet Fair is Saturday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the dog park across from the library. This is a fun event for dogs and their people. There will be games with ribbons and prizes for all, including special events for grade and high school students. Get your costume ready for the costume judging. If you have a business and would like to have a booth at the pet fair, please call Barbara at (928) 468-8458.
Correction: In the bat column last week, it was stated that 1.5 percent of the bat population has rabies. Actually the figure is far less at 1/2 or .5 percent.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.