Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do Our Dogs Pick Us?

...but Mom, he followed me home, can I keep him! The Hollywood version shows that little kid hanging flyer's all over their small town, and either finally keeping that pup, or having to hand it over to it's rightful owner, thus learning a lesson. Much like fairy tales, these screen plays always have a message or "moral of the story." Everyone has a story about the dog that picked them, and of course some of these stories end better than others. It's been my experience, that yes, our dogs pick us! I've witnessed this in the dozen or so adoptions that I've had the pleasure of facilitating this past year.

More often than not, a rescue dog will arrive here at Sit & Stay, rattled at the notion of being exposed to strange people, and dogs. Regular readers of my blog know the story of Bea-Bea, the nearly Ferrel ACD. Many of these pups have never had a regular feeding time or consistent diet, never mind a roof over their heads, or the occasional caress of a loving human. It takes some time, and patience, but they all come around eventually. The fact that nothing bad happens to them, and the example of confident, fun loving dogs all around them helps too. Then again, romping or flat out running in an open field as a reward is all the motivation some of them need.

On other side of the coin, we have dogs show up that are considered over-confident by some. These guys have been surrendered to rescue, or dumped at the shelter for being "too much to handle." I personally love these high energy guys, 'cause they mean fun, fun, fun! Guys that come to mind are Kansas, Ocala the Red Aussie's; Little Bear the Blue Merle Aussie; and my own, Titan- one word, Frisbee. These kids personally benefit me, as much as I do them; I need to burn energy too! Plus, they give me an excuse to put off other boring tasks. Now, the ones that can be most difficult, are those that are withdrawn, and fearful.

They're dogs like Lucille, "the herder that wouldn't"; Filly the nipping BC/Spaniel; and a little guy named Hank, the pacing Maltipoo. Most of these guys are the product of puppy mills, and are usually paying clients. It seems people are still buying dogs from flea markets, pet stores, and back-yard breeders. It also seems that the "designer-breeds" have helped these mercenary minded breeders to avoid those birth defects, that are so prominent in over-exhausted gene pools of some pure-breeds. However, we still see that anti-social behavior that comes from being separated from their mother, and/or their siblings, only to live in their own filth, devoid of human, and canine interaction before they're purchased. What they learn is how to fear, and pace in place!

How do I handle these situations? I wish there was a "water fountain" answer, but there isn't! The best plan of attack is to do nothing, but rather to be patient, and to observe. I need to find their patterns, and their thresholds before I can even consider an appropriate treatment. Now, treatment is never pinning a dog down, or scaring them with a stick, and hanging them by their lead! Corrections should be non-emotional, and minimal; a firm, but gentle leading to their crate, or verbal "ah-ah" is enough. The only way to get lasting positive results from any dog, is by finding what motivates that particular dog, and to feed into it! What you really want is a dog that makes his/her own good choices- this is the result of "positive training technique."

...enough of preaching Jesse, get to the fun stuff- you know the Hollywood thing! Oh yeah, that's right they find us, don't they?

I've had this discussion with Gisele Villieux many times, and yes we've found this to be very true. Especially, on October 16Th, 2010- the DogLiberator's first annual reunion. We had some seventy folks here with as many, if not more dogs. They all looked so happy, and proud with their choices in their companions; so did the people. That choice is made at that very first meeting. Naturally the dog, and their new owner feel the connection, but we fosters in rescue literally see it.

The dog greets a new person, or people. It's usually more stressful for the people, because they think they're making the decision. When in reality the dog, and I know better. If the dog likes them, I can visibly see the stress melt away to reveal, the joy beneath; in the human that is. It's at this point, I suggest they take a walk out of my sight. It's very cute, because the dog usually shows them around, as if to say "let me show you the real Sit & Stay Doggie Daycare."

When they return, I don't ask a question, or for that matter say anything. It may be rude, but I really don't hear what the humans say either. What I'm waiting for is the dogs answer; no nonsense, it happens every time it should! The dog looks up at them, quite relaxed, then turns and walks to me. They sit in front of me, and look up at me very soulfully. Then I swear, with their eyes, and a graze of their head on my knee, they say, "I'm gonna go home with them, okay?" That's it, they walk back, and gaze into their new owners eyes, "okay, lets go now."

If you haven't guessed, it took me so long to get around to saying this, because I cry every damned time; Hollywood knows a good story when they see one. The answer is Yes, our pets choose us, every damned time!