Whats Love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it?

Shelter dogs and love.


By Jeff Gellman of Solid K9 Training.  Jeff is the trainer that even dog trainers use.


There’s a dog in a shelter with a rough past.  The shelter or rescue pushes to get this dog adopted.  Their words read, “He is running out of time and all he needs is a safe place and a family to love him.”  A well- meaning family sees the dog’s photo, inquires, and ends up adopting him.  The dog has some unresolved behavioral issues due to his previous life but they are patient.  They want to give the dog time to heal and recover.  They want to go easy on him because they simply feel so sorry for him.  They dwell on his past instead of moving forward.


 Soon enough, this family finds that they can’t properly walk the dog on a leash.  They hardly have company over anymore because the dog won’t stay calm.  They have a difficult time leaving their home because of the dog’s intense separation anxiety.  They don’t even trust this energetic and seemingly out of control dog around their kids alone.  So they begin to train using only positive reinforcement.  They ignore bad behavior, toss the dog treats to distract him, and spoil him with endless hugs and kisses to convince, and even plead with him that he just doesn’t need to be so unruly.  They never introduce boundaries, rules, or consequences, because all they want to do with this dog with a difficult past is show him love. 


 After trying for months to desperately fit the dog into their household, this well-meaning, yet frustrated family finally surrenders the dog.  “We tried to give him a good home but he was disrupting our lives so much he probably would be better suited to someone else.”  Their positive and “loving” dog training approach ultimately failed them, and even worse, failed the dog.  The dog goes back to the shelter.  He may be adopted again, and the next owner will run into the same issues.  Once again, the dog isn’t taught the correct way to do things.  Or maybe he isn’t adopted, stays in the shelter, and still isn’t taught the correct way to do things. 


Murphy, the brown labradoodle was scheduled to be killed at a shelter and is with us for dog/dog aggression and reaction issues.Putting the dog with a stable pack


At the shelter, the dog gets one small walk around a parking lot per day, maybe two if he is lucky. Some never get to leave their kennels, and live their lives with no access to a world other than the four walls holding them in a small space. The dog that does get to walk pulls on the volunteer’s lead, building more and more adrenaline until the person has to bring him back inside.  His energy remains high inside his kennel as he eagerly strains to have some human interaction while people walk past day after day.   He jumps and barks frantically, wanting to be touched, talked to, and given a job.  Soon, he becomes agitated.  No one adopts him because he is believed to be too rambunctious, unmanageable and unstable due to an unhealthy environment.  He eventually runs out of time, and is deemed unadoptable.  Then, like so many others with the same sad story, he is executed.


There are of course, other stories that lead dogs into shelters- millions of stories, actually. In fact, every year, over five million dogs are surrendered.  There could be a variety of reasons for relinquishment- lack of time, divorce, allergies and moving.  The most common reason dogs are abandoned however, is due to behavior problems, and the reason behind that is because they were never properly trained.  No dog is inherently problematic- they quite simply were never taught rules.  It blows my mind that so many people would rather kill a dog then actually use a balanced approach to training.  Dogs simply need to be trained for the real world.


The real world isn’t a controlled environment.  It’s not having your dog sit and stay for a cookie in a room.  It’s about controlling your dog in uncontrolled scenarios.  Scenarios in every day life may involve a busy street or pool, or a lot of loud kids.  It’s about your consistent leadership no matter what the situation. One of the most fundamental problems we have in the shelters is that dogs need to be prepared for the real world before they leave the shelter, and instead, they are becoming increasingly frustrated. 


We cannot spend all of our time “loving” shelter dogs and never actually training them, or the majority will end up dead.  This is not my being dramatic- it is the hard facts that people need to realize and accept.  We need to become proactive and bring balanced training and behavior rehabilitation into our shelters by using the correct tools and techniques.  So how do we do this?  Introduce programs that will train the volunteers to be able to efficiently work with these dogs.  Daily walks with a change of scenery, interactions with other dogs, and contact with people that are not just walking past.  Implementing effective programs that suit a dogs’ mental and physical needs will greatly improve adoption rates in shelters.


With that being said, I think that the moment the shelter worker takes in a surrendered dog and walks him into a room with a clipboard, they should recognize the limitless potential in him.  They must begin training him for a new life, where he will be in a permanent new family, because he knows the correct way to behave in the real world.  Every dog deserves a chance, because every dog has the ability to learn. The right to life is fundamental, and the killing of animals due to convenience and overpopulation beliefs is not the practical, compassionate or humane thing to do.  The killing needs to end.


It’s not about love.  It’s about dog training.  It’s about educating.  It’s about leading. Yes, rehabilitating a dog requires work.  It requires effort.  It requires time and there are no quick fixes.  Doesn’t everything worth doing require work, effort and time?  Isn’t saving lives worth it?


If you have any questions, and want to speak to professional dog trainers in Rhode Island, please call Jeff Gellman at Solid K9 Training Providence, RI (401) 527-6354.