Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog?
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I meet and see a lot of people that shouldn’t own a dog. If you get offended by what I am about to say, then you shouldn’t own a dog . And that’s the way I meant this chapter to impact you. I’d rather that you got angry with me than with your dog. I wrote the first draft of this article nearly a decade ago, and it is still valid.
If you 100% AGREE with this article, and can live up to what I’m saying, then you should consider getting a dog. Your strong beliefs will motivate you to do the right things with your dog.
The kind of person that shouldn’t own a dog is the person with a lack of owner commitment to their dog. They fall into seven catagories:
1. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Cheapskates. These are the kind of people that have the money, but won’t spend it on their dog. They bargain shop when getting a dog. They bargain shop when Training a dog. They bargain shop when caring for their dog. Their idea of bargain shopping is not getting the best dog for their money, it’s finding excuses why they shouldn’t have to spend any money on their dog at all. They get a cheap dog from a cheap provider. Their primary motive for getting a dog from a shelter isn’t compassion, it’s money. If they get a dog from a breeder, they are more likely to get a cheap dog (and not look too closely at the pedigree), than to spend more to get a good dog (that will be less expensive to own in the long run). We often encounter people who have adopted a dog from a shelter that won’t pay for their dog to be trained. If the Training will cost more than the purchase price of your dog, they won’t have your dog trained. Your dog is a throw-away item to them if they have to spend their money. They are also the kind of people that won’t provide proper shelter and care for their dogs. Your dog lives in the back yard. They won’t spend the money for a crate. They buy bargain foods. Your dog never gets a new toy. They might not have your dog vaccinated every year. Your dog is dirty and has fleas. The cheaply bred dog gets health problems, so they give your dog to a shelter instead of providing the proper healthcare. If you are too cheap to own a dog, or you don’t feel that you can afford to Train and care for one, don’t get a dog.
I remember one person that had a Siberian Husky. They used to keep the dog on the porch all day and night. They saw me walking my dog past their home and commented on how well behaved my dog was. After talking for a while, they learned that I was a dog trainer, and they asked if I could Train their dog to walk on a leash without pulling. The dog was too strong for her.
I evaluated the dog. He had a normal Temperament, but he was claustrophobic. He didn’t like being in a crate. I also found out that they had sent the dog off to a Training facility for a month for some Training. I gave the dog a few commands, and he acted like he had never been trained at all. I think that they had been duped. There are some disreputable Training facilities that will take your money, supposedly to Train your dog, but the dog and owner never end up being trained. I’m sure that this was the case here.
I quoted her my fee. She said that she really wanted to work with me, but she would need to talk to her husband first, and she would call me back in a couple of days. Well, after a couple of WEEKS, I hadn’t heard anything, so I decided to call her and see what they had decided. Her husband said that they already spent money on Training the dog, therefore the dog was trained, and he wasn’t going to spend any more money on Training.
About a year later, I heard that the dog had Escaped and run away. I wonder if the dog was found and adopted by someone at a local shelter, or if he was run over by a car. I still feel sorry for that dog. I could have solved their dog’s problems. They had the money, but he was a cheapskate.
2. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Nitwit: There is quite a bit of risk and responsibility in owning a dog. If you harm your dog, or if your dog harms someone else, you could be sued or go to jail. A Nitwit is a negligent dog owner. Some let their dog run the streets, or they don’t keep up the dog’s vaccinations, or they let kids or adults provoke their dog into an explosive attack, or they don’t control their dangerously aggressive dog, or they don’t protect their dog from harm. When your dog runs loose off of your property, it can get into a lot of trouble. In the worst case scenario, the dog is dies at the hands of others, or attacks someone. If you don’t keep up your dog’s vaccinations, there is always the risk that your dog could contract rabies, which could risk your life or the lives of others. If your dog attacks someone, you can be sentenced to years in prison, lose custody of your children, and lose all of your possessions. And, when you are a neglectful owner, your dog can injure, or be injured, by innumerable hazards. All of these scenarios open you up to liability. The trouble with the Nitwit, is that you can tell them that what they are doing is extremely dangerous, and they will blow you off and ignore your advice. They choose to ignore the risks to themselves and their dogs.
I spoke to a Nitwit that owned a dog that had a history of aggressively charging at people. Sometimes the dog would bite. When I went to speak with them, the dog glared and grumbled at me the whole time. I told them of the terrible risks they were taking by not controlling and Training their dog. Of course, they never signed up for Training and they continued to allow their dog to act aggressively towards people. I wouldn’t be surprised to see their name in the newspaper some day, with they headline, “Owner Charged With Murder After Dog Mauls Child.”
3. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Overly-Busy Person. The fun of owning a dog is getting the daily, intense and personal interaction a dog can provide. A dog is the closest friend you can have, next to a real person. In fact, many a dog is a more faithful friend than some people I know. The person that works a lot of hours every day, who can’t spend quantity and quality time with a dog, shouldn’t own a dog. Giving your dog only quality time (regular, but brief intense sessions) will backfire on you. From your dog’s point of view, that kind of day is very boring and stressful, as it waits for its brief encounter with you. It eats them up inside and causes a multitude of behavioral and psychological problems, such as separation Anxiety. If you are going to own a dog, you need enough time to:
a. Have at least one, full, uninterrupted week of time to spend with your new puppy or dog it’s first week home. Two weeks is better.
b. Supervise and implement the Housetraining.
c. Supervise and implement the crate Training.
d. Care for, and clean up after, your dog every day.
e. Buy proper toys and equipment.
f. Take your dog for a walk every day. Most dogs need at least a 1 mile brisk walk per day. Some dogs need a 5 mile walk or run every day.
g. Groom your dog: Nails, ears, eyes, coat.
h. Provide healthcare and emergency appointments with the veterinarian.
i. Have enough play time to Teach and play retrieve games
j. Have personal time, meaning just being together for 2 to 3 hours every day, and a least a third of your waking hours every weekend.
k. Train your dog with a dog trainer, then do at least 3 maintenance lessons every week for the life of your dog.
l. Socialize your dog. Meet 100 friendly strangers. Go to lots of new places. Train in new and unique situations to prepare for emergencies. Keep your dog from being bored.
m. Enjoy your dog. You must have enough time so that you are able to enjoy the process yourself. If it isn’t going to be fun for you, then now isn’t the time to get a dog. If you already have a dog, then you need to follow through on your commitment to your dog and alter your lifestyle to include all of this extra time.
Lots of busy people want the “quick fix.” They want the dog trainer to be like a plumber. They want you the fix the leaky faucet (the dog), and then figure that it won’t leak again for another few years (won’t need any more attention or Training). It just doesn’t work that way.
Don’t get another dog, as company for your current dog. If the dog is lonely, make more time for the current dog. Two dogs are more than twice the work. One dog is plenty. If you are a busy person and get two dogs, you’ll just end up with two bored and neglected dogs!
4. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Abuser. You can physically and psychologically abuse a dog. Anger and vice and destroy a dog. When a dog is abused, the dog becomes less trainable and more difficult to live with. Sometimes, the dog decides it has had enough and it attacks someone, most often a family member or a neighbor. This can be a life or death matter, regardless of the size or breed of dog. Some people get a sick pleasure out of abusing a dog. Some children aren’t mature enough to be kind to a dog. Some people get jealous of a dog and the attention it gets from other people. Some people are mentally unstable or just plain crazy. Abuse can make a dog vicious and uncontrollable. A dog can’t feel pain when enraged. The bite of an attacking dog can break your bones, destroy your internal organs, and permanently maim and disable you. If you have a dog, and live with a person that will hurt the dog, then for your own safety, if you can’t get rid of the person, then find a new home for the dog. If you can be honest with yourself, and you determine that you are abusive to the dog, then first find the dog a new home, and then get some good counselling. All abused dogs need the help of a professional trainer. I have worked with abused dogs that were almost impossible to Train. They had been wrecked for life.
I had a client with a dog that was severely traumatized by her 20 year old son. When he got mad at the dog, he would stuff the little dog’s face into the vacuum cleaner. The guy was a bully and he wrecked that dog. You’ve got to wonder why a 20 year old man would abuse a Chihuahua. They are a very timid and gentle dog. It’s no wonder that the dog would hide under furniture. It’s also no wonder why the dog was a biter. The dog was terrified of people. I could barely Train the dog to on leash obedience. The only way you might be able to turn a dog like that around would be to place the dog in a new home with a knowledgeable dog person, then implement an intense desensitization program (which would include drug therapy).
I would also call a person an Abuser that had their dog ride, unrestrained and unprotected, in the back of their pickup truck. I’ve seen a dog flip out of a pickup when it hit a bump. It’s great that you are taking your dog with you wherever you go, but you aren’t considering the welfare of your dog. There are numerous ways a dog can be killed, freeze or overheat, be injured, get lost or be stolen when left unrestrained and unprotected in the back of your truck. If your dog bites someone, thinking it is protecting your truck, but you didn’t witness the incident, then the dog could be seized on the word of a stranger and put to death. At a very minimum, the dog should wear a proper harness in the back of a truck. Better yet, the dog should be in a crate. Even better, the dog rides with you in the cab of the truck, in a proper area behind the front seat.
I had a client that had a sharp, angry temper with his untrained, 1 ½ year old, female German Shorthaired Pointer. So, he bought a dog Training book that recommended hitting the dog when the dog disobeyed or did any kind of destructive behavior. So, of course, the dog started biting him, which made the man even angrier, which made him use even more force on the dog, which made the dog even more dangerous back to him. The first mistake the man made was to get angry with the dog. The dog was only doing what any untrained dog would do. What else could the dog do? It was the man’s fault that the dog was destructive, not the dog’s. The second mistake to use only force and Dominance to control the dog. Dominance should only season the relationship between dog and Master, not be the sole basis for control. Further, when Dominance fails with an untrained dog, you must then resort to force and fight the dog. That’s really stupid. A dog can kill a human. You never want to get in a fight with a dog, especially with your own dog! Finally, his last mistake was to take the advice of a dog Training book that recommended hitting as a method of Correction. If you hit a dog, you will Train the dog to bite people. The way this man was treating his dog was abusive.
Another type of abuser is the unruly kid. I was at obedience classes with my dog, Kate many years ago when I saw a young boy kicking the family Rottweiler in the private parts. The owner’s were telling the boy, “No, No, Johnny,”, but the kid just waited until they looked away and started it up again. They then saw the kid do it again, and said nothing to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if that dog eventually bit that kid (Defensive Aggression) and that the parents blamed the dog. Abusive kids shouldn’t be around the family dog. I don’t trust kids and dogs alone together.
I had one instance with my dog Kate that could have resulted in a bite. I was having a party at my house and I had put Kate in another closed bedroom to keep her out of the way. About an hour into the party, I heard her growling and I went to investigate what was going on. A guest’s kid was shoving and pushing her around for fun, and Kate was trying to get away, but couldn’t. This was one of those families where the kids run the household. The kid knew not to be in there with Kate, the parents never followed through on their reprimands at home or in public, and the parents looked at me as if I was goofy for telling them to they needed to supervise their kid around my dog. If Kate had bitten the kid, Kate would have been blamed and might have been put to death. I’ve seen similar instances with the kids of clients. Bratty kids and dogs don’t mix. One or the other will get hurt.
5. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Acquirer. The Acquirer gets a dog as a possession or a sign of prestige. The Acquirer gets a dog because the dog will get the owner something. This includes the person who gets a dog because they want to attract other people to them (to attract a wife or husband), not because they feel they have a need in their lives for a companion dog. This is also the politician that gets a dog because it will improve their image as a family person. The Acquirer is also the sport dog person who gets a dog because they want to win a trophy. If that dog can’t win the trophy (obedience or show), they get rid of the dog and get another one. The Acquirer is likely to “churn” dogs, and go from one to the next in order to own a champion or to get more attention. The Acquirer won’t settle for a less than the perfect dog, so they discard the ones that don’t perform according to their goals. Beware: some of your top breeders and trainers can fall into this category. These people lack compassion for dogs and are likely to “throw away” a dog to get another one.
I once had a client that owned 7 dogs because they believed that owning a dog was lucky and because 7 was a lucky number. Your dogs were practically untrainable. They weren’t socialized when young, so they were very afraid of people and places. Good breeders won’t sell a dog to The Acquirer, because they know that the dog is an expendable asset.
6. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Sluggard. This person gets no pleasure or reward over Training their dog. They lack motivation. This person can be turned around with proper reinforcement, just like you can get a dog motivated to obey. But, as long as this kind of person stays unmotivated to Train and care for a dog, they shouldn’t own a dog. There is always something better to do than take care of the dog. Meals are skipped, the house is a mess, cleaning is put off, Training is postponed, they are always tired or busy, everything will be done “tomorrow” but not today. The Sluggard would benefit from working with a personal trainer that worked with them and the dog to keep them motivated. As long as the Sluggard isn’t also a Cheapskate, then they could benefit from being accountable to a trainer to make them do their lessons. They could also pay the trainer to do the Training and maintenance Training, pay a dog walker to walk the dog, and pay a housekeeper/helper to clean up after the dog and do the basic errands, so long as the Sluggard will spend time with the dog every day and take the dog with them on a regular basis. The Sluggard with money isn’t necessarily a hopeless case. The Sluggard that won’t keep up on the needs of the dog shouldn’t own a dog, and they are too lazy to find the dog a new home. A Sluggard’s life is a miserable life for the dog.
Sluggards rarely hire a dog trainer. They are just too lazy to make the effort. The ones that I have worked with never do their homework, and they never continue the Training after the lessons are completed.
7. Who Shouldn’t Own A Dog: The Mommy or Daddy. These are the people that treat a dog like a furry little human baby. They refuse to treat a dog like a dog. Their dogs fill an abnormal need for attention and companionship that robs the dog of its dignity and place as a dog in their homes. These people spoil their dogs. Usually, these people spoil their kids. The kids are often mean to the dog.
The Mommys and Daddys won’t Train their dogs, even when the dogs have become dangerously Aggressive. Once a family member is bitten, they hire a trainer. After the trainer tells them that the dog needs Training and that they will need to change how they relate to the dog, the Mommys and Daddys get offended. They ignore the trainer, blaming the dog for the owner’s own failures, and get rid of the dog. Sometimes, they keep the dogs, thereby endangering others.
These types of owners refuse to accept the concept that dogs are pack animals, like wolves, and need a proper leadership structure in order to learn commands, be obedient, and to stop problem behaviors. They view dog Training as a kind of torture that turns dogs into robots. They view giving a dog a Command as being mean spirited. And they don’t want to learn about, or use, the proven scientific dog Training concepts of positive and Negative Reinforcement, stimuli and responses, etc. They don’t think science applies to their dogs. In human society, we want everyone to be treated equal, based upon merit and character. In dog society, dogs are programmed by their genetics to see society as a vertical hierarchy of leaders and followers. Leadership is maintained through biting and Aggressive posturing, eye contact, threats, and actions. They see all we do in relationship to the pack order. The Mommy or Daddy type of owner usually won’t let you Train their dog with a leash and collar or with food. They want you to reason with their dogs to make them obey. The dog of a Mommy or Daddy is often extremely confused, and sometimes abused (psychologically and physically), by the very owners that profess that they love their dogs. I hate working with these kinds of people, because they often terminate the lessons once they are confronted with conflict between their viewpoint and the viewpoint of their dogs. I also hate what they are putting their dogs through.
I rarely get a Mommy or Daddy to sign up for Obedience classes. I had one couple that owned a young Rottweiler that was biting the husband. It was purely adolescent Dominance. The dog was a normal and well-Temperamented dog. They started lessons, but then the wife started objecting to Training the dog. She didn’t want me to use a Correction collar. She didn’t want the dog to have to drag around a leash. She didn’t want me to use treats. She wanted me to reason with the dog like you would a person. She continued to let the dog sleep on her bed. The dog kept bullying the husband. One day, the dog cornered her and started biting her. Now that she was the one being challenged, and it was bound to happen, she got offended. I tried to repeat to her the Rules of Dominance, but she refused to listen. I “fired” my client that day, refunded their money, told them to find another home for the dog, and made it clear that I thought that they weren’t the type of people that should own a dog. It was a normal dog with abnormal people.
I feel bad for that dog. At the time of the writing of this book, in my area, 75% of the Rottweilers that end up in shelters are killed. It’s too much dog for most people. I wonder if that dog is still alive or was put to death.
Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.