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Hi Everyone, I am hoping the Admins can make this a sticky but if not I understand. I have been around Dogs my entire life and working with Shelters and Rescues for the last 20 years and I like to think I know what I am doing and what I am talking about. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Rescue Dogs and Shelter Dogs and I want to try to separate the fact from the fantasy.

Any Dog requires work and a commitment and if a person is not prepared for this they need to think twice about getting a Dog. Dogs do not have cruise control or auto-pilots. They need structure, consistency, and leadership especially Working Breed Dogs. I cannot stress enough that Dogs need firm, consistent leadership. Dogs are pack animals and most Dogs do not want to be the pack leader and once a Pack Leader is established, they look to that leader for leadership. In the absence of leadership many Dogs will try to lead and that rarely ends well so you as a human and the Pack Leader have to provide that leadership. In being firm, fair, and consistent with a Dog you are not hurting that Dog. The Dog one day is not going to decide to stop loving you in fact providing these things to a Dog makes them love you more and strengthens the bond along with the trust that place in you.

Dogs whether they come from a Rescue or a Shelter need time to decompress but that does not mean they should get a free ride to do whatever they want. Rules and boundaries have to be set and enforced from Day 1. There is an expression in Sheltering: 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Months. What this means is it takes time for a Dog to adjust to a new home and family and decompress and sometimes it happens quicker and sometimes it takes longer and as a Dog settles in habits good and bad start to show. This is why it is important to set rules and boundaries and enforce them from Day 1. This is why a lot of Dogs get returned to Shelters and Rescues because for 3 months the Dog got a free ride to do whatever and all of a sudden on Day 91 the Dog is expected to be a "perfect" Dog and that will never happen. By setting rules and starting to train a Dog from Day 1 a lot of issues will never become issues and potential problems can be identified and either headed off at the pass or a plan of action can be developed.

Training of a Dog is vitally important and it is a 24/7/365 job. I have a 6-year old German Shepherd who I think is reasonably well trained and yet we never stop. Every day when we go out he sits for me to put his lead on. He sits at the door, he sits at crosswalks, he heels on walks. I put him through Sit, Stay, Down, Come, and more everyday. Everything my Dog gets he has to earn and although I don't like doing this (It's a lot of work and I would just rather love on him 24 hours a day) it makes him the best Dog that he can be and it makes me the person my Dog needs. With a Dog training, structure, discipline, and consistency cannot be stressed enough. This group is an amazing resource with a lot of great people and if a Dog owner hits a wall and can't resolve an issue here there are many good Trainers everywhere and their prices are reasonable for the service they provide. Most good Trainers are animal lovers and it is not just a business to them so if you are at your wits end and don't think you are getting the help you need here contact a trainer in your area. The vast majority of issues can be fixed through training but it takes time. Just because you and your Dog spend 3 lessons with a Trainer doesn't mean the Dog is magically fixed. You have to continue the lessons your Trainer gave you long after the Trainer is gone. Dogs are incredibly smart and training and addressing issues in many instances has to be done on the fly and the ability to think outside of the box is mandatory.

Dogs are surrendered to Shelters for many reasons and there is nothing wrong with getting a Dog from a Shelter or a Rescue but you have to be willing to make a 100% commitment to the Dog and you have to be prepared to give the Dog what the animal needs. People think that getting a Puppy from a Breeder is a better option and I can state for a fact that it is not. If a person gets a Puppy from a Breeder and does not give the Puppy what it needs the Puppy is going to act out and then guess what? When the Puppy is no longer "cute and fun" the animal gets surrendered to a Shelter and there is yet another unwanted Dog in the world.

I am extremely passionate about Dogs and about all animals and there is nothing I will not do for an animal and I mean nothing. I am active on the legislative and political fronts to help animals, I am the Director of a National Rescue Confederation that exists to help animals find better lives. I am active in Animal Transport. I am listed on the Go Teams for several national groups that respond to animal involved emergencies. Animals are my life and I live for the day when there is not a single unwanted animals in the world and all of the Shelters have to close down. The reality is I will be dead before that happens but I can hope. I know we all have busy lives but I urge everyone here to get involved in making this a better world for animals. In many ways they are better than we are. Thanks everyone.
 

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Thank you for the work you do with rescue dogs.

Dogs are pack animals and most Dogs do not want to be the pack leader and once a Pack Leader is established, they look to that leader for leadership. In the absence of leadership many Dogs will try to lead and that rarely ends well so you as a human and the Pack Leader have to provide that leadership.
Wasn't pack theory disproven well over a decade ago? Honestly, as someone with a rescue dog who does have pretty serious behavioral issues (and other rescues that don't, so I'm not slandering rescue dogs here), it seems like the alpha stuff gets brought up when pet professionals want to shift blame onto owners for the problems their dogs face, through no fault of their own.

Every day when we go out he sits for me to put his lead on. He sits at the door, he sits at crosswalks, he heels on walks. I put him through Sit, Stay, Down, Come, and more everyday. Everything my Dog gets he has to earn and although I don't like doing this (It's a lot of work and I would just rather love on him 24 hours a day) it makes him the best Dog that he can be and it makes me the person my Dog needs. With a Dog training, structure, discipline, and consistency cannot be stressed enough.
^ Like this. I don't discount the need for training and boundaries, but I swear, the idea that dogs need to earn every bit of food and affection and freedom is bizarre to me. Even in the wild dogs don't have to earn everything they get. When you get down to it, overuse of structure is really just management and there are frankly other management techniques I'd prefer to utilize that are fun for both of us.

It kind of reminds me of a time when I took my dog to an obedience class. He was about two years old and I'd had him since eight weeks - and that entire time he had struggled with behavior, though had improved marginally. When I say behavior issues, btw, I'm not talking about chewing, or bathroom habits, or pulling on the leash. He was severely antisocial, aggressive, reactive, and a resource guarder. This trainer (whom I loved) suggested working on obedience in proximity to the things that triggered him. First class, we get there and she starts teaching some of the basics and seeing what the other dogs already know. I do not exaggerate when I say she came to where we were behind a little divider, and she watched us go through everything - sit, stay, down, come, up, off, heel, etc. She just looked at me, totally stunned, and said, "he already knows these things!?" I said yes, and with good precision, but obedience alone does not fix emotion. We stayed for the rest of the class and afterwards went in another direction with his training, which has served us well.

I'll get down off my soapbox now. It can just feel really frustrating to be gaslighted by pet professionals who will look you in the eye and tell you that your dog has mental health issues because you give too much affection, you don't provide corrections, you have anxiety yourself, etc. No. That is almost never the case.
 

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I agree with much of what you have written. Shelter and rescue dogs get the blame from careless adopters and "breed-conceited" folks who think every mixed breed dog (and most any dog that isn't bred to their personal preference) is a bad genetic experiement.

I do disagree that a dog must must work for everything. This suggests that all dogs are the same. The truth is that every dog is an individual. What works for one dog is a disaster for another. Some dogs thrive on having jobs. Some dogs live to please their person. Others just want to relax. Rather than telling potential adopters that their dog must work for everything, we need to work harder to fit the right dog with the right home.

One common problem (seen on this forum often) is the belief that when choosing a puppy (or dog), you should choose the one that demands your attention. That this puppy who needs human interaction most will be the ideal dog. This is a disaster waiting to happen. The second most common complaint from new puppy owners (potty training is #1) is that the puppy demands their attention 24/7. Most new dog owners are NOT looking for a dog to do dog sports, etc They are looking for a companion who will go outon a 20 minute walk and then settle down quietly with their toy or chew while the family does their thing. Or they are looking for a companion to their existing dog. In those situations, the puppy who demands human attention is NOT the right puppy for the family.

Consistency with rules is important. But the rules themselves are not set in stone, nor do they have to be the same for every dog.

And requiring a dog to always work for everything can create problems. I have taken in several neurotic female shepherds over the years. They were given a ton of rules and their need to please their owners turned them into that A student who commits suicide because they got a B on a quiz. My Cat-dog is like that. It has been over two years and she is still finding it difficult to just relax because she is so worried that she will make a mistake. That is sad. And unfair to her. She should be allowed to just be, to not have constant demands made on her, to be able to enjoy a moment without any pressure to perform.

Of course training is not a "6 weeks and it's done" thing. Training IS forever. But it isn't all there is. Choosing the right dog for you, being consistent, and giving unconditional love is just as, if not more, important. No dog has ever become a problem because they were rewarded for just being a dog. Giving your dog a treat simply because he is there will not create a bad dog.

I also think it's time to stop talking "pack" when it comes to dogs. Pack theories are all based on that infamous wolf study. And we have now learned that pack structure is NOT a defined and unchanging heirarchy in wolves, let alone dogs. Whenwe continue to use the term "pack", we reinforce the outdated notions that we humans must behave as a dominant dog. And doing that IS a HUGE recipe for disaster.

Instead, we need to focus on teaching people that dogs are living creatures with minds of their own. They are not robots that are pre-programmed to be the perfect pet or companion or competitor. We need to give them structure and consistency and understanding. We have to allow for individual personalities. Just like we have to allow for our children to grow up as individuals, we need to allow our pets to do the same. We need to let our dogs be who they are. If they want our attention, and we chose them for that reason, then we shouldn't punish them by locking them away when they want our attention. If we want a dog to be playmate for our existing dog, then we should choose the puppy who prefers to play with the other puppies. If we want a dog who will lay quietly on her bed while the family cooks dinner, then we should choose the puppy who is laying quietly on her bed while the other puppies are playing.

And rather than advising owners to be the "pack leader" and "in charge", we need to teach them to be consistent, to establish rules that make sense for their home and family, and to allow the dog to have his own personality and not force one on them.
 
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@Poppy14 @Toedtoes Thank you for your comments. Maybe I came across as a bit too harsh in my comments but Shelter and Rescue Dogs do get a bad wrap in many cases and it is not true. Training can go a long way towards alleviating the issues that some Shelter Dogs have. There are bad Shelter Dogs just as there are bad Dogs from Breeders but consistency, structure, and discipline can go a long way towards helping the Dog. I do stand behind my comments about Dogs needing a clear leader. Try getting a Working Breed Dog like a German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman, Cane Corso and the like and just feed the Dog and take him/her out for potty breaks and then go to work for 8 hours a day and see how quickly your house gets wrecked. From all that I have experienced with Dogs training them and holding them accountable is how I show a Dog that I love him/her and I have their back.

I agree with you 100% that Dogs are living beings with their own personalities. Max and I have off days and today was one of those. He just would not engage and I didn't push the issue. Instead we played, joked around, and he had a "sniff" day. The point that I was trying to make with all of my words is way too many people get a Dog and think they have an auto-pilot and don't give the Dog what it needs which is at least basic structure and training and then when things don't work out instead of giving the Dog what he/she needs the Dog goes back to the Shelter which to me is unnecessary and only hurts the Dog. Thank you again for your comments and thanks also for all you do for them.
 

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I agree with the heart of what you're saying. But, not every shepherd needs a job or to "work for everything". My Cat-dog (purebred shepherd) is not a high energy dog. I absolutely can take her for a walk and then go to work for 8 hours and come home to an intact house. In fact, I don't even have to take her for a walk first.

But, knowing that SHE can be content, and happy, with that, doesn't take away the truth that your Max needs more, that he needs more mental work or he will be frustrated, bored, etc.

And that is why we, as rescuers/breeders/experts, need to put more effort into making the right match.

I fostered a great husky/shepherd mix. She was an amazing dog. She looked like a narrow build shepherd. I had potential homes lined up for her. But, they were all looking for a calm, easy going, eager to please shepherd. That was NOT this dog. She was thinking 24/7. She wasn't high energy, she was a genius who got horribly bored if she wasn't constantly challenged. I spent five months turning down home after home, because I knew that the average home couldn't keep up with her mental needs. I finally found the right match for her. They did agility with her, they did sledding, they constantly challenged her mentally. And for over 10 years, she kept them running. After she passed, I talked to her Mom and she said that she loved that dog so much, but she would never get a dog like her again. It was constant work.

So, that dog gave her owner exactly what we tell owners to give their dogs - the owner had to work for everything. Nothing was just given by the dog. It was constant work for life.

And you know, it was exhausting. It was frustrating at times. The owner wished that sometimes, just once in a while, she didn't have to put so much effort out just to have a moment's rest.

Now, for some people, that challenge is the best thing in the world. They thrive on it. They need it. And if they aren't provided with it, they create it - often by stressing out everyone around them.

But for a good 90% of people, they don't enjoy it. They don't want to always be on. They want to just relax and take the easy way at times. They are content to give 100% effort at work and then go home and veg in front of the tele. And some don't want to work that hard. They take jobs well below their skill level because they don't want the stress, pressure, demands, responsibility of more.

So, why would dogs be any different? What one dog sees as a challenge, another sees as unwanted stress. And trying to catalog dogs by breeds is ignoring that individuality.

I have owned four purebred shepherds. I have owned/fostered at least five shepherd mixes. Only one has been the high energy, destroy the house, personality that is promoted as "the typical shepherd". Only one as a puppy was destructive (she shredded books). The rest happily slept while I was at work, went camping/hiking with me, and crashed out on the couch with me while I spent a weekend binge reading or watching tv.

But, when I adopted those dogs, I made sure that their personalities matched my lifestyle. I didn't select the shepherd that was high strung and high energy. And I listened to the foster home or shelter staff in regards to the dog. I love shepherds. I love their looks above all other breeds. But I did not let my preference for that look override the right personality fit. And when I looked for homes for rescue dogs, I didn't let potential adopters do that. I made sure they understood the dog's personality and could and would handle what that required. And I turned away homes if I wasn't certain they understood or weren't willing and able. That has done me well as none of my dogs have ever been returned because the home couldn't handle them. And I had some tough dogs to be homed.
 

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And I do absolutely agree that too many owners underestimate the amount of work it takes. Especially when raising a puppy. They expect puppies to come pre-programmed like robots to be the perfect pet. And when that puppy doesn't just "get it", they get frustrated and upset and want to give the dog away.

We absolutely have to put way more emphasis on the efforts involved, but we also have to help folks find that individual dog that fits their life. Just because someone works 8 hours a day doesn't mean they shouldn't have a dog - but maybe instead of buying that high energy beagle puppy, the better choice would be to adopt an older relaxed beagle. Instead of choosing that puppy who demands their attention, they would do better with the shy quiet puppy. Maybe instead of adopting that sad story older dog, they should get an older puppy (6 - 24 months). And while rescuing an animal is a good thing, they need to understand that it is ABSOLUTELY a lifelong commitment - for better or worse. That no dog is perfect anymore than we are perfect.
 

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So.. much of what you say I agree with BUT when it comes to going to a breeder you are partially incorrect.

A GOOD breeder of the breed you are looking at will improve the odds of the buyer getting a dog with a genetically sound temperament geared for the job the buyer intends to use the dog for.

Genetic temperament counts... be it a working k9, a sport dog (including upland shooting or IGP or bird dog retrieving etc.) or family pet.

This is not to say there are not good rescue dogs. There are. This is not to say carefully bred dogs do not have issues. Some do.
It is to say if you have a specific "job" (including sport) that you want a dog geared for, a GOOD breeder improves your odds of getting that dog.

Temperament in dogs is largely genetic. This should never be ignored.
 

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I did Rottweiler breed rescue for about 10 years, which is to say I fostered a good many Rotties or mixes, and I agree with most of the OP. I've never been good at enforcing boundaries to the extent the OP describes, but I noticed, particularly with the dogs who came from a background of abuse or neglect, that they actually seemed relieved and more relaxed when they encountered boundaries and began to understand them. My guess is it gives them a sense of having at least some modicum of control. If I do this, this happens (or doesn't).
 

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Boundaries and consistency are very important. No question. It's the having to work for everything that is dependent upon the dog and is not just a given.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I did Rottweiler breed rescue for about 10 years, which is to say I fostered a good many Rotties or mixes, and I agree with most of the OP. I've never been good at enforcing boundaries to the extent the OP describes, but I noticed, particularly with the dogs who came from a background of abuse or neglect, that they actually seemed relieved and more relaxed when they encountered boundaries and began to understand them. My guess is it gives them a sense of having at least some modicum of control. If I do this, this happens (or doesn't).
@storyist OMG you are amazing, you actually get it. I am going to start a petition to have you made Admin/Mod Supreme Emeritus of this web site. Dogs, especially Working Breed Dogs enjoy pleasing their handlers. I ruined one of the first Dogs I ever had because I got frustrated and gave up on the animals and that haunted me for years. I had adopted a Norwegian Elkhound mix from a shelter and he was smart but in my arrogance I didn't realize it at the time. I tried for weeks to train him but he just didn't seem to get it. Even the simplest stuff he didn't seem to be able to learn. Finally one day I erupted and started screaming at him that he was the stupidest Dog on the planet and I was done with him and after that I did the bare minimum I had to and it affected him badly. He became destructive, he barked and whined all the time, he peed in the house, basically he became a hellion. One day I had enough and took him back to the Shelter and turned him in. I was so full of anger I couldn't see straight. It wasn't until years later that I realized what I had done and it hit me hard.

Even though a Dog resists you, even though they may act out or not learn as fast as you want doesn't mean that they are a bad Dog or that they aren't getting it. The Dog will get there. The most important thing is to hang in there and praise the successes. Much of what I do to help animals is in his memory. Thaks for getting it.
 

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Boundaries and consistency are very important. No question. It's the having to work for everything that is dependent upon the dog and is not just a given.
This. Even dogs in the wild don't have to work for every bit of food, water, or affection.

My current boy, badly bred though he is, is a mix of working cocker, border collie, chow, and GSD. So while he certainly wasn't bred for high level sport, he's extremely high energy and high drive (which is a terrible combo with genetic fear and anxiety he was given). One of the saving graces for him in regards to resource guarding was giving him his own space to eat and enjoy high value items in peace - as opposed to handfeeding or trying to teach him those items were "mine" (they're not, I gave them to him, they're his now). One of the best things for his reactivity has been to find as many outlets as possible for him to just let loose and be free to be a dog. And one of the best things for his anxiety has been me learning to listen to what his needs are, and giving him the agency and ability to ask me for what he needs - be it food, affection, time outside, etc.
 

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@storyist OMG you are amazing, you actually get it. I am going to start a petition to have you made Admin/Mod Supreme Emeritus of this web site. Dogs, especially Working Breed Dogs enjoy pleasing their handlers.
As one of the civil war generals said, "If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.:) I admire the moderators here and couldn't do what they do.

Dogs, especially Working Breed Dogs enjoy pleasing their handlers. I ruined one of the first Dogs I ever had because I got frustrated and gave up on the animals and that haunted me for years. I had adopted a Norwegian Elkhound mix from a shelter and he was smart but in my arrogance I didn't realize it at the time.
We might disagree on trainability of all working breeds. I had Akitas as a young woman. They were lovely dogs, easier in many ways than the Rotties, but desire to please anyone but themselves was low. One of my favorite memories of my 2d Akita was her in the backyard (I have about an acre fenced around my house). She was walking toward one corner, and I called her. She stopped, looked over her shoulder as if to let me know she heard me, then continued on her way. No Rottie I ever met would ever do that.

I do believe that with more modern positive training methods one can get much further with independent breeds and individuals, but I also believe you have to take breed and individual into account if you want certain things from a dog, and that human/dog mismatches cause a lot of misery. Let's face it, most people don't want to put as much time and work into their pets as people who frequent forums like this.
 
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