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Dog Bite

Dog Bite Injury

This picture is of a rescue volunteer/foster's calf who was the recipient of redirected aggression that was triggered by the foster's personal dogs. Now, does the well meaning trainer who insists on "my way or the highway" really sound so bad?

Poor Introductions

I am probably going to make some folks very upset with this article but the truth needs to be told. For the rescues where the following criticisms don't apply please don't be offended - Thanks for all that you do. Please be advised though, that these bad rescue organizations give people a negative view of rescue and in turn damage your legitimate association by the typical behavior of people painting things with a broad brush. If the shoe doesn't fit please don't wear it. My comments are certainly valid for many of the rescues I have seen.

I have witnessed rescues repeatedly do introductions of dogs into multi-dog homes that have set the dog up for failure. In addition to the dog potentially not getting a home, it puts all of the dogs and humans at risk.

I have approached rescues in the past to change their ways. This typically falls on deaf ears. Some of them have even said to me, "Our approach has worked in the past... maybe we are just lucky!". These folks don't realize that their luck will eventually run out.

In a recent case, I got into a huge debate with a rescue with regards to their approach. They had just had three dogs returned from fosters. Two out of the three were returned because the fosters claimed that they were beginning to see aggression issues. You would think that the rescue would want to do some analysis of what was going wrong instead of burning bridges with fosters. Fosters are hard to come by. Instead of questioning their own actions, the quick and easy excuse is always, "People Suck!". That's easy to say instead of accepting some of the blame. Yes, they kick people in the groin that went out of their way to help them out. Even if the fostering lasted one month, the foster did the rescue a big favor by providing the dog a temporary home. Remember that typically there is little cost to the rescue. Some of these folks seem to have a feeling of entitlement. Years ago, when I started donating training time to rescues, other trainer friend's told me that if you do it for free, it will be seen as not having any value. Years later... he was 100% correct!

This same rescue wanted me to do the TV style 5 minute intro, at the new foster's house. I told them that I don't referee dog fights. I don't do TV style nonsense either. I take a slow approach that often takes ten days to two weeks before the dogs even get to interact with each other. They have of course exclaimed, "That's too much work! That is too hard to do! Can you shorten it?". Yes, sometimes it can be shortened - other times it is lengthened. I let the dogs tell me when they might be ready. I am using the word might because no human really knows what goes on between the ears of the dog. Anyways, the rescue would rather chance dogs, killing each other or perhaps having dogs maimed for life or maybe even a human badly injured. All of this because it's apparently too hard and too much work.

I am shocked and amazed by all of these rescue folks who claim that "Would do anything for the dog" and "Whatever it takes" but then discard safety because a plan of "Crate-Rotate and Observe" is too much work for them.

If you're in rescue and you do a bad job, sorry you don't get a special place in heaven reserved for you. You're obviously doing something so that in your mind you can feel good about yourself because you certainly aren't doing it for the dogs.

Not only did they not want to try suggesting a safe plan to their fosters and adopters, they were unwilling to do it with dogs that they foster. I think some of these people need to take a good look in the mirror and decide what their motive really is. Rescues complain they have no money for this and that but they must have tons of money for getting dogs sewn up at the vet or euthanized.

In some cases, rescues do a bad intro, the dog acts out of panic and the resuce labels the dog as "Having a Screw Loose". They then euthanize the dog because they claim the dog was unfixable. Remember again, these folks are claiming that they are the "Kinder-Gentlers". And, apparently, anyone who corrects their dog is an animal abuser.

I have considered that maybe these rescue folks are good hearted but extremely naiive and don't really know as much about dogs as they like to pretend. However, they have been doing rescue for five, ten or even twenty years. Twenty years of fund raising doesn't teach you squat about dogs!

Perhaps they have not heard a tale where one family pet killed another. They have never seen pictures of a human that was torn up in the worst way. They have never perhaps had to break up a real dog fight. I've broken up a bunch and have the scars to prove it. Be advised that with some dogs, once they latch on they need to be choked to unconsiousness before they will release. Are these rescue folks ready to start telling potential adopters that? No, that would be bad PR for rescue. No one wants to hear that.

Some things rescues could improve on:

  • New owner of foster not given any documentation on how to live with a dog. Dogs don't have an owner's manual built in. Some people don't have much experience. Would it really hurt to give them a list of guidelines to help their chances of success?
  • Would it really hurt to call the potential adopter regularly for the first couple of weeks and ask them if there are any issues. Some people won't call you until they are ready to return the dog.
  • Don't introduce dogs in the living room of the adopter's/foster's house because it is too hot, cold or rainy outside.
  • Don't introduce dogs on tight leashes face to face. When I see this sort of behavior on a rescue TV show on Animal Planet, I always ask myself, "Why these people arent being arrested?". They are obviously engaging in dog fighting which is illegal, immoral and disgusting.
  • They don't tell people how to feed a dog. You wouldn't believe how many people don't know how to do this. I know of another rescue where one volunteer who thought she was a trainer would hold the bowl up and the minute the dog sat would throw it down for the dog to run in quickly. The rescue is then scratching its head why the adopted dog engages in resource guarding after it has been adopted out.

When I have brought the previous point it always degrades into "We dont have enough time", "Don't have enough money", "Too much effort" and "I give too much of myself already". If you cant do rescue properly, don't do it or rescue fewer dogs, but at least do a good job with the ones you do have.

Rescue volunteers have no interest in listening to trainers. They will claim that they dont want to bother with trainers because trainers insist, "My way or the highway!". Guilty as charged! If a trainer has something that works well and they are willing to donate their time for free, who is the rescue to question the trainer? I know of a rescue person that is a teacher. I asked this teacher what the sentiment would be if her students told her to teach class in a different manner.

Rescues claim they want help from for trainers but reality is different. I know of a trainer friend that has a fairly large training business, who at one point offered her group classes for free to a local rescue. She has never had anyone take her up on an offer, that countless people have spent a lot of money on.

-- Daniel Audet