I did a three part series on pets for the community blog, and I thought it worth re-posting on this blog too. Below is part one:
Everyone believes themselves to be responsible pet owners. I know because of the hundreds of applications I have investigated where people want to adopt a rescued dog. So the purpose of this three part series is not to embarrass or demean anyone but maybe show that there are various levels of pet ownership and different perceptions. Because of my prior background in criminal and civil investigations I volunteer my time to check out people who want to adopt a rescued dog. Without exception they all state that they are the best dog/cat owners on the planet.
When I get into their history and attitude I find out things are sometimes different than they portray. For example, the man who had all the right answers but it turned out he was apparently looking for bait dogs for a dog fighting ring. Or the convicted child molester who liked little girls and wanted to adopt a large female German Shepherd. Or the person who wanted a replacement dog because his neighbor shot his last dog. All claimed to be the best dog ownesr alive.
So I would like to submit a few observations I have discovered over the years for consideration. There is no absolute right way and wrong way to raise and train dogs or cats. Each pet is different just like people are all different and what may work for one will not always work for the other. There are some common threads however and that will be the primary focus and apply in general.
Colorado has coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcat and a host of other dangers to pets left outside unattended. I frequently get applications where a prior pet has been attacked and eaten or killed. We cover 4 States and in some area's snakes are a hazard. . Rescue dogs usually come from a troubled past and placing them in good homes where they can succeed is our only consideration. For example, our female German Shepherd was previously so badly abused that it took us a full two years to rehabilitate her to be the normal wonderful dog she is now. She hid behind my recliner and was afraid of everything. Our male German Shepherd had been so neglected that his prior owner did not even look for him when he turned up missing for 5 weeks. He was a sorry medical mess but now leads a pampered healthy life as do our other dogs.
Responsible pet owners devote the time necessary to keeping their pet safe and away from circumstances where they could be injured. We prefer to walk our dogs on a leash right next to us. We have found that expandable leashes on large dogs limit our control, let the dog believe it is walking us, and can jerk you right off your feet. While walking our large GSD male two years ago next to me, a mother bear and two cubs came out of the ditch less than 20' from where we were. A sit command and from prior training our dog knew to take his cue from me. He sat for at least 10 minutes while I remained calm and the bear sat also. Having a lunging dog under those circumstances or one barking would have spelled disaster. Our dogs obey and we have trained them not to bark unless we allow them to. Barking dogs can create a hazard and annoy neighbors. Being prepared, having patience and perseverance led to that encounter and it went as anticipated. Not often do I get to stand 20' from a large bear with two cute 8-10 lb cubs running around, with my dog sitting next to me and observe bear activity. That 10 minutes seemed like 10 hours but the key was being prepared and having your dog trained and remaining calm.
If you have had any techniques in pet training or behavior you would like to share leave leave a comment. Following parts will cover topics of pet safety, first aid, dealing with the environment, and training. If you move here from a city or different local planning ahead for your pet is vital. They face things in Colorado that are not potential problems in more urban areas and a responsible pet owner will be prepared ahead of time for the sake of your pet. Most of my e-mail and most of my face book account are associated with shelters and rescues all over the country. I would encourage anyone to volunteer to help animals if you do nothing but fill your pocket with dog biscuits and visit the local shelter. You won't regret it but that is not what these topics are about