Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Homeless Dogs Are Not Hopeless Dogs


As you all know, I am strongly passionate (if that is even a real feeling... it is to me), about stray, homeless dogs. Beyond that, the relationship these dogs have with homeless people... the homeless person and their dog.

I am sure you have encountered a homeless person with a dog, and you may have commented to yourself on how well-behaved and calm these dogs are. I use this comparison to our spoiled rotten dogs, in all my training classes in an attempt to explain just how much control we have over our dog's temperament and behaviors.

The love and devotion these people, who can scarcely take care of themselves, show to their pets is amazing. The devotion is not based on monetary value and fancy collars and leashes, but more so unconditional love, respect and mutual fulfillment. They make incredible sacrifices to keep their animals with them. There’s no way they can get into a shelter for the night, and probably don’t use the number of dining rooms available to the homeless for meals.

But why are their dogs so good? I seriously doubt that they can afford to hire dog trainers and take their dogs to the dog park for exercise.. I don’t see many of them reading books about training and behavior, and I’m willing to bet they aren’t spending their time at the library surfing the Internet looking for training tips. I wonder how many of these dogs actually know more than a few commands?

I think it boils down to the fact that these people have an absolutely consistent relationship with their animals. They aren’t receiving conflicting advise on how to handle or care for their dogs. They seem to act on intuition. It’s that consistent relationship that creates the bond of trust between the dog and human. This is why these dogs are so calm. Of course it helps that the people are with their dogs pretty much 24/7, but having a calm and content animal doesn’t have to require decades of professional experience or a degree in animal behavior. Did some of these dogs come to these people with behavior issues? Since many of them had been strays themselves, I’m quite sure they did.

If your dog is having aggression issues, anxiety issues or just doesn’t seem calm or focused, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a complex or complicated matter to correct. It doesn’t have to be, and often it isn’t. In my experience if those dogs that may have a genetic predisposition to these behavior traits, can be managed rather reliably and safely. The secret trick I don't believe is training, but more so exercise and activity. It helps promote better physical health, stability and confidence. In order for exercise to have a positive effect on mental healthy, it has to be a consistent part of one's routine. This for some dogs means daily, but for no dog means once a week.

I can spend a whole day speaking on what is proper exercise... maybe next time. It's kind of like playing sports a sport. There are still rules involved that need to be followed, and with practice, you get better. Same thing when dealing with many behavioral issues in dogs.

This alone, differentiates homeless dogs from our dogs. They are constantly on the move, learning and exploring; not confined to four walls of a house, or a fenced in back yard. It's like a person who is well travelled or reads a lot.... that person can relate to much more than someone who is not well travelled or does not read.

Dog Responsibly.

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