I received this article in my email today, via a Robin Macfarlane’s News Letter...
I've always been a proponent of the saying "Honesty is the best policy". However, this career has given me plenty of opportunity to realize that honesty isn't always easy or well accepted.
There are days I have to deliver a message that someone is not going to want to hear. Words like; "this dog is dangerous" "this dog is a liability" or "the only option I see is euthanasia" do not come without great consideration and they carry a heavy weight with them.
But there are times those words must be spoken. The challenge is helping a loving and attached person see the same reality that I am seeing.
Rose colored glasses are nice to look through. They add a lovely hue to the surroundings but they are not so good for clarity. When it comes to our dogs sometimes it is easier to find excuses to leave the glasses on than it is to see the stark image that might be right in front of us.
I recently received an e-mail that described a dog who has a multiple bite history. The newest owner described an adult dog who wasn't a stranger to using his teeth when presented with a situation he didn't like. The owner also expressed a belief that the dog "may" have been abused. I paraphrased the situation on a Facebook post and it received considerable attention so I thought it valuable to share here on the newsletter as well.
Here are the thoughts I shared on the TMD Facebook page:
if you send me an e-mail that says something like: I've rescued a 3 year old dog. He was living with a neighbor who didn't pay much attention to him. I "believe" he was abused...he has bit me several times, but not hard bites, just scratches. I tried to take away a piece of garbage he had and he came at me. He's a beautiful dog. I feel so sorry for him, he must have been abused...I love him and cuddle with him, he gets a couch to himself and I feed him as much as he wants...why does he treat me this way?
I will put it to you this way: I have rescued a 30 year old man. He was living with his mother. I "believe" he must have had a hard life. He has pulled a gun on me several times, but no direct shots, just grazed the skin. I asked him to move off of the couch so I could clean and he came at me. I just feel so sorry for his having a hard life. I tell him how great he is and feed him and he's just so handsome! I can't understand why he treats me this way.
We will need to get on the same page that sympathy over perceived abuse will not fix the problem. Unacceptable behavior may have been learned, but it can be unlearned through work, structure and rules.
If you can change your mindset about what rescuing should really mean...then we will begin the journey together of rehabbing an attitude of entitlement into one of becoming a productive and well mannered member of society.
The truth isn't always easy, but looking at situations with a skewed perception helps no one, least of all the dog. Rehabilitation of dogs who bite is often times a possibility BUT it is never going to be easy or without significant risk.
Most importantly, while empathy for a dog's "past" is a reality we must all deal with, sympathy and excuses for his present behavior will never solve the problem.
If need be able to take the glasses off and get to work.
I agree with Robin with regards to the majority of her message. I believe that being extremely emphatic does not rehabilitate a dog. It often can make a dog worse. There was part of her message that I do take offense to though. I have cringe at the advice given by any trainer where they state that, "the only option I see is euthanasia”
I think it is highly inappropriate for a dog trainer to tell a client to kill their family member. That decision should always be left up to the family. Everyone has different tolerances for risk. The trainer is there to perhaps offer advice on risk and improve the situation by any means possible without eliminating the dog. If they can't help they should simply say that and move on. By the same token I think it is highly unethical for a trainer to take large sums of money, in a situation where they know they have almost no chance of making a difference.