In this day of Google, Instagram and so many ‘dog people’ around, why are we continually failing our dogs? My two behaviour consults from a recent weekend summarized here:
Desi dog, 2-3 months old, Rescued by a do-gooder, kept in the garden for the entire ‘foster period’ i.e. socialization period, and re-homed to a working couple who travel a lot
- Cannot be approached or handled by strangers
- Not willing to come up to strangers
- Hides from the family and the house help
- Needs to be dragged out for walks and is now terrified of the leash
- Consequences: Unless the family puts in a LOT of time, patience and effort to socialize the dog correctly and work through her fears over the next few months, this dog will be doomed to a fearful life. A bite can very easily happen.
(Note: Am not in touch with this family and do not have any recent updates)
GSD, 2-3 months old, Sold from a breeder at the age of 30-35 days to a family of 4
- Cannot be approached or handled by strangers
- Not willingly come up to strangers
- Will bark and/or back off if a stranger looks at the dog for more than 2-3 sec
- Suspected separation anxiety
- Consequences: Same as above.
(Note: This family goes out of their way to socialize the dog and to ensure as much daily physical and mental stimulation as they can. Seen so much progress already. I am very optimistic about this pupper!)
The biggest consequence to both these cases is that we may have lost two absolutely amazing dog-friendly families due to our collective irresponsibility, arrogance and greed. The work needed to rehabilitate these dogs cannot be underestimated. If these families make that hard decision to give up their respective dogs, I do not blame them at all. It’s not the family’s fault that they have a fearful or nervous puppy.
|| As trainers, we often fail to speak and work with others in the “dog industry”. Rescuers and breeders need to engage with us too. As ‘dog professionals’, we need better policy, louder unified voices and fewer silos.||
Neither commercial breeding establishments/puppy mills nor urban roads/markets prepare a puppy well for a life in a family home. In both situations, the socialization period between 3-16 weeks is entirely misused. Either the pup is exposed to nothing (in addition to being separated from the mother, or modeling after the mothers’ fear behaviours) at a puppy mill OR learns to avoid all humans and traffic on the roads. Physical health is also compromised in both situations! Puppyhood is a complex developmental stage and it does take a village to raise a pup.
(Sidenote – Do not pick up puppies off the road without a 3-6 month plan for their care.)
When such pups are then given to a family home, A LOT of time, patience and work (I promise it’s fun!) is needed in the first few months to a year, to ensure a mentally and physically healthy pup and human family. It is not impossible, but it requires time. It’s also great fun to see your pup make so much progress and do so well 🙂 Good breeding, temperament tests, and common sense approach to matching dogs to families are absolutely essential to happy dog-human families.
Some ethical breeders and responsible shelters (below) are doing a fantastic job, but they are small in number (certainly not an exhaustive list!):
- CUPA Second Chance Adoption Centre, Bangalore
- Freagles of India
- Red Paws Rescue, Delhi
- The Modern Mowgli, Delhi
- The Welfare of Stray Dogs, Mumbai
More resources on Socialization here. I promise you they are worth your while!
- Critical Fear Periods in Puppies
- Critical Periods in Your Pup’s Growth
- Potential Causes of Problems in Pet Store Puppies
- Socialization Checklist (should be adapted to the urban Indian context before use)
- Stop Fear Before It Starts
- The Dark Side of Socialization (my fav!!)
2 Comments Add yours
I have this dog who was left by someone with my society’s guard when he was 3 months old. I took him in. He had seperation anxiety issues which are over now. but he grew a different problem later and that was of snapping at strangers. We cannot leave him open around guests. Now its been 14 months since i brought him home. He wasnt agressive towards us untill now but now he has bitten me and my parents multiple times. Whenever he goes resting under the dining table and if we try to bring him out he gets agressive and even bites. recently he was just lying on the floor and i approached him and for no reason he bit my toe. today he bit my mother again when she was trying to move him back inside the room when he was trying to move out(its a usual trigger). I dont know why he has grown this behaviour. he is such a sweet boy but sometimes he just cross the line by a huge margin and recently this has been happening way too frequently. What should I do? Please help me I dont wanna lose him as my parents have told me to find some other place for him.
Hi Sushant, thank you for writing in. Can you please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your location and I can help you find a behaviourist you can work with.