Wednesday, 19 December 2018
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Not all people-dog matches are made in puppy heaven, Modesto trainer warns – The Modesto Bee

Last month I dealt with a heart-breaking situation of a bad match between owner and dog. I usually deal with this type of case at least a dozen times a year, and it never gets any easier.

Irene is a lovely woman in her early 70s. On her birthday in February, she was given a new puppy by her well-meaning daughter and family. She was presented with a little Labrador retriever, who was promptly named Cocoa.

Irene is no stranger to dogs; she loves them, and has raised many, primarily German shepherds, throughout her life. A few decades ago, she could have deftly raised Cocoa or any other dog. But by the time I was called in to help, Irene and her family were at their wit’s end, convinced that Cocoa was an aggressive, evil dog that was beyond any training.

When I entered Irene’s home, Cocoa was in her crate, and began to spin around in it, while barking excitedly. We waited until she calmed down a bit before letting her out. Once outside of the crate, she sprinted around the room, jumping from one piece of furniture to the next. Irene tried to grab her, and Cocoa responded by seizing her arm in her mouth. Irene let go, arm bleeding, and Cocoa continued her steeplechase run through the house until I presented a rubber toy, filled with bits of jerky and peanut butter. We used it to lure Cocoa outside and left her there while we talked about a plan.

After 20 minutes of listening patiently to every awful thing that Cocoa had done over the past nine months – including shredding the carpet, pulling Irene to the ground while on a walk, digging trenches in the yard, eliminating in the house, and barking incessantly for attention, I looked sadly at the puppy outside, who was still and quiet, highly focused on getting the goodies out of my borrowed toy.

I wondered if the breeders of this nice puppy had given any thought to the home they were placing her in; surely they knew what was required to raise a lively Labrador puppy? Had Irene’s family taken the time to consider the physical requirements of caring for Cocoa, the strength that would be needed just to hold on to her while on leash, and the time that would be involved with her training?

Raising a puppy is joyous, time consuming, and a lot of hard work. Irene knew this and had done her share of puppy raising in the past but was afraid to let on to her family that Cocoa was just too much for her to handle. And despite all the trouble the puppy was causing, she loved her, so she spent a lot of time defending Cocoa to the rest of the family, who resented the puppy for physically harming Irene and behaving so poorly. The family labeled Cocoa a “bad” dog, who needed a strong hand and firm discipline to correct her evil ways.

This is where my job gets difficult. Working with Cocoa was easy; her behavior wasn’t any different from any other puppy that wasn’t getting enough proper exercise, attention or training. The difficulty was in telling a client that, no matter how good the intentions were, this human/dog relationship was destined to fail.

In this environment, Cocoa wasn’t going to get many of her needs met. Even if she was trained properly, Irene was not inclined to take her on daily walks for exercise. Cocoa, we discovered, loved to play fetch and tug, but Irene could not handle throwing a ball very well, and there was no way that a game of tug could be played without Irene falling. We taught Cocoa to sit for attention, but although Irene was willing to pet and cuddle with her, Cocoa was more interested in other, busy activities.

In the end, thankfully, Irene and her family agreed with my assessment. I helped them find a new home for Cocoa, and when I last checked, she had come back from a day of swimming at a lake with her new family, which included two boys and another dog. Cocoa had made up for lost time in terms of training, and was one of our top Clever Dog training class graduates this year, excelling in a training program without a heavy hand, and was shown that controlling her impulses allowed her to earn the activities she so enjoyed.

Irene is back to her regular routine – weekly bridge games, a couple of slow walks through the neighborhood, and quiet days at home reading or watching television. All enjoyed with the company of her new buddy that I helped her choose – a 9-year-old Labrador mix named Jenny, who is a little arthritic and has cataracts, but is content to lie at Irene’s side, walk slowly down the street, and soak up all the attention and love that Irene has to give.

This is just one more example of the need to put a bit of thought ahead of purchasing a dog. The dog and human bond can bring so much joy but can also be full of stress and heartbreak if not well thought out. Consider your stage of life and the requirements of the breed of dog you’re interested in, and then choose wisely of breed and age, to stack the odds in your favor for an enjoyable and successful longterm relationship with your canine.

Source: https://www.modbee.com/living/article222248945.html

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