We felt this was a necessary addition to our website. As so many people worry about breeders, so many breeders worry about owners.
This page is an attempt to help those who have purchased a puppy or will purchase a puppy one day, to avoid becoming a "Problem Owner".
The idea that a dog owner shold learn what his or her dog's postures and movements mean in order to understand how to establish effective communication and avoid or solve a behavior problem is a departure from the concept that the dog should be "trained". Further more, to suggest that an owner can and should learn to move in certain ways or assume particular poses in order to express behavioral ideas to the dog seems incompatible in a world where words dominate our thought. However, these skills, or their absence, can play a vital role in problem behavor.
We're going to list some problem owners and their behaviors.
First lets take the owner whose dog barks and barks either from frustration via boredom or at something that it interprets as a threat. In other words a barker. The owner shouts at the dog in an effort to "calm" the dog down. This doesn't work so the owner tries every form of punishment he/she can think of. This doesn't work. Few dog owners realize that shouting at a barking dog is, in fact, responding to the barking with a human version of the same behavior. Many dogs will become silent because they associate the owner's tone of voice with disapproval and impending pain from punishment. However, certain temperaments will often get worse.
In the non-verbal world of the dog, silenece signifies silence, stillness begets stillness, action stimulates action, etc. Example: "Did baby hurt itty tozy?"A Shepherd puppy just yipped when it stubbed its toe. The owner, a mature woman who had raised 3 chidlren, was displaying signs of becoming a problem dog owner, one of which is a mistaken belief that puppies or even older dogs possess the ability to understand words as humans do.
Spoken language is just noise to dogs. It is a tribute to their intelligence that they actually learn the meaning of certain "key" sounds. This usually comes about throught he dog's deliberate concentration and the owner's almost accidental consistency when referring to certain events or objects, eg. regularly using the word "out" in such phrases as "D'ya wanna go out?". In these cases, sound of the word "out" is meaningful to the dog. The upward inflection used with the entire sentence often indicates that it is time to get excited about something, the nature of which is revealed by the key word involved.
The single, most glaring feature of problem owners is ignorance - not stupidity, but an almost perfect vacuum of knowledge about what makes their dogs behave as they do. This "vacuum" of knowledge is not empty, rather, it is filled with myths and assumptions about the behavioral nature of the dog.
An owner had a dog with highly active defense reflexes. The puppy responded to harsh punishment during the housetraining period with snarls and actual attacks. The owner, puppy and counsellor attended a behavioral session. During that time the dog kept going to the door to look out. Each time thsi happened the owner rushed over, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, slapped his nose and pulled him back to a forced sitting position by his chair
After about 10 episodes the counsellor asked the client what he though he was teaching his puppy. He responded by saying that he was teaching him to stay with him in a sitting position rather than wander away. The counsellor then asked why a pup should want to stay with a person who grabs, slaps and pulls at him. The answer was typical: "Because I am supposed to be his master."
Highly physical owners are usually amazed at how quickly and willingly their dogs respond to nonphysical show-and-tell methods. This phenomenon then provides motivation for them to listen to advice and change their general attitude about the dog. When the dog perceives its owner's changed behavior, the problem often improves immediately.
The "drill sergeant syndrome" may have originated during the first World War (from which most obedience work stems). Except in military dogs, it si time that such training was stopped before a large percentage of pet dog owners acquire chronic laryngitis. most dogs can hear sounds at 75 feet that cannot be detected at 18 feet by humans, and it is well known that loudness triggers defense reflex responses, usually of the avoidance type. When trying to gain obedience, it is difficult to equate avoidance conditioning with effective learning of words like Come, Sit or Heel.
Seductive-Physical and/or Vocal
The owner who tries to gain loyalty and obedience through constant petting, baby-talking and coaxing the problem dog is usually practicing a form of waht this counselor calls "pet-oriented emotional masturbation." Which is to say, it is the owner, NOT the dog, who gains emotional satisfaction from the behavior. This sort of owner usually ends of with a dog who is immature and may be anything from sadistically vicious to masochistically self-mutilating.
Through no fault of their own, many problem dog owners have never been taught any of the basics of leadership. When these people are faced with a dog which displays independence it is perceived often as a blow to their own personal worth. the reaction isusually an overreaction, either giving in to the dog's desires or becoming irate and withdrawing from the dog's company or ignoring it.
A good example of ambivalence is an owner who buys a St. Bernard and bans it to the back yard because of its unruliness and constant slobbering. The owner states that she wanted the dog so her children might grow up with it. She felt responsible for the unfortunate animal but, on the othe rhand, the dog was not fulfilling its planned role in the family.
The ambivalent owner perceives the dog in terms of satisfying personal needs. When this standard is not reached (usually through no fault of the pet) the owner experiences ambivalence - the contest of simultaneous attraction to the dog regarding affection and responsibility for its welfare and revulsion due to the animal's behavioral and'or physiological shortcomings
Ask yourself these questions:
Did the dog have any choice in selecting its owner?
If those who chose the puppy now find it acceptable, how could any new owner learn to love the same dog, lacking the value of an early relationship in its life?"
Who is best equipped, when the proper tools for rehabilitation are provided, to help the dog; its lifelong owners or some strangers?"
In the event the owners are also parents and are thinking of euthanasia as a solution, an analogy often helps: How will you cope if your children fail to live up to your expectations?"
The owner who uses common sense in the face of an undesirable response from the dog soon becomes convinced that something is wrong with the dog rather than with his approach. It can be most difficult to deal with this type of owner. On a purely logical basis, the owner thinks something must be done to change the dog to fit the treatment rather than vice versa. Most often the emotional relationship between such owenrs and their dogs is either absent or shallow. Then it is usually up to a behaviorist to discover the threads of some emotional bond and then stimulate the owner to develop that relationship and gain the motivation necessary to salvage what is usualy a worthwhile dog from a difficult situation.
There are of course, many more different type of owner/pet related problems. These are but a few
From a breeder's point of view, we are not Gods, fortune tellers, nor whipping posts. Good breeders sell what they believe to be good solid well tempered puppies. Things can go wrong but many extremely knowledgeable dog behaviorists have stated that most problems are created through ignorance and environment than are ever born. If you have a problem with a puppy or older dog, instead of looking to lay blame, look for a solution before irreparable damage is done. Before anyone starts screaming "blame it on the breeder, they did it", honestly sit and evaluate your relationship with your pet.