Thursday, February 26, 2009

Old Methods = No results

We are asked often for training recommendations, and the majority of time, folks don't want to hear what we have to say. The majority of people who are experiencing behavioral issues with their dogs want quick fixes. They want to send their dog away to "boot camp" for two weeks, and have a different dog come back. They watch "training" television shows and try to implement what they see on television, often with ineffective, and sometimes disastrous, results. They don't want to hear what many of us now know - those old, aggressive, dominant methods of training don't work, and actually cause a dog to have more behavioral issues than he or she started with.

A new year-long study provides some hard evidence that the popular dominance-based methods don't work. The researchers concluded that among "dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, ... most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified." In other words, aggression in, aggression out.

So what counts as aggression? Those old-school methods of jerking, hanging and shocking should easily come to mind as aggression. But what else should be classified as aggressive training? Isn't that alpha roll a good technique - NO. Bullying a dog in any form is considered aggressive, and will make your aggressive dog meaner and your shy dog shyer.

For more resources, check out these links:

Choosing a Trainer, from The Bark Magazine - this is a CRITICAL article to read before you pick a trainer
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Peaceable Paws Dog and Puppy Training - site of Pat Miller, one of the most advanced, knowledgeable trainers working today

Two local trainers that we work with and recommend:

Susan Giordano, K9U
Lennox Gavin, Paws-a-tive Results Dog Training

You owe it to your dog to learn the most up-to-date training methods, and find a trainer who can teach them to you. You wouldn't try to do surgery on yourself after watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy, right? So, why try to heal your dog after watching someone playing a trainer on television.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Take action in Georgia!

We at AARF work most diligently to address the problem of pet overpopulation here in Georgia, and to help the dogs and cats in Atlanta who are homeless as a result of lack of education, lack of owner responsibility and lack of spay/neuter. But, that doesn't mean that the other pets don't matter. They do, and this is a time when our feathered friends need your help.

We have made great strides in legislation against dog fighting in Georgia. Unfortunately, other types of animal fighting, including cock fighting, have been left out of legislation in order to avoid upsetting certain constituencies. Finally, in this year's legislature, a serious and comprehensive anti-cock fighting bill has been introduced.

We need your help to support this bill through the legislative process. Have no doubt that those opposing this bill are very vocal, and often have strong connections to their representatives. Their voices were strong enough to get the cock fighting measures deleted from the dog fighting legislation recently passed.

Any type of entertainment that involves the exploitation of animals is not entertainment at all. Help stop cock fighting in Georgia. Take action today.

Learn more about cock fighting and what you can do to help by visiting the links below:

Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals
Humane Society Anti-Cock Fighting Campaign
Georgia House Bill 109

Please don't assume that you don't need to act because everyone else will. They won't. And if you don't either, more will suffer because of your inaction.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another Loss

We lost another foster dog this week. Max had only been with AARF for less than 24 hours, but his loss was just as painful for his foster mom Amy. Max was a 5 year old pug who came to us when his owner could no longer care for him. He was neutered last Tuesday, and seemed to have a hard time coming out of his surgery. By Wednesday morning, he was at the emergency vet, and had gone into heart failure.

My first reaction (and many of you reading this might immediately think the same thing) was that something had happened during his surgery, or he had a reaction to the anesthesia. But, a post-mortem exam revealed that Max had advanced heart disease, and probably only had a few months to live. So, in a way, the surgery did hasten his passing, but it was inevitable, just like Joe's. I am so grateful that Max got to spend his last day in a loving home with a foster mom who showed him so much tenderness and compassion.

But, I am also very, very mad. Max's heart problem was almost positively a genetic defect, one that is passed from generation to generation. And Max was a pure pug. So, there is some pug breeder out there who is breeding a line of dogs with a congenital heart defect that causes premature heart disease and death. And I am confident that this breeder is not disclosing this information to the people who are buying his or her dogs.

I understand the practice of ethical breeders who really care about the dog standards and traits. These breeders are few and rarely need to advertise in the back of the newspaper. Any good, ethical breeder will tell you that you don't make money from breeding; in fact, you usually lose money, because you care so much about the health of the puppies and the parents. And good breeders will screen potential homes as strictly as AARF does, and will always take back a dog that doesn't work out in the new home.

Then, there are the other kinds of breeder, one of which is probably the kind that Max likely came from. First, are the "backyard breeders" who have a big pen in the back yard, and expect their dogs to pump out 2-3 litters per year. They'll sell their dogs to anyone that shows up with cash. They don't care about the breed standard, the health of the dogs, or the welfare of the puppies once they leave the property. They rely on the public's desire for designer dogs as accessories, and they don't care about the people or the puppies involved. If the new puppy doesn't work out, good luck to the new family. The backyard breeder won't help.

The second is the puppy mill breeder. You've seen the news stories about the large puppy mill busts, with hundreds of dogs crammed into tiny cages in big warehouses. Many of the female dogs in these mills are nothing more than breed sows, giving birth as often as physically possible, never touching the grass or breathing fresh air. If they are so lucky to ever get a chance to leave the puppy mill, they still have a long road to a good life, often facing chronic health issues and delayed or non-existent socialization. These puppy mills provide dogs to the fancy pet stores, such as Petland. The puppies may look healthy in the stores, but chances are, they aren't. And the misery experienced by the parents of the puppy can't be justified.

So, please, before you decide that the adoption process is too hard or too personal and decide to just buy a puppy from the flea market or a back yard, remember Max. And before you stop in at Petland or another pet store to get that shiny new purebred puppy instead of that rescued mixed-breed puppy, remember Max.

Max died because an unethical breeder relied on the public's desire for a purebred designer dog. Please help us stop unethical breeding, so no other dog has to go through what Max did.

Here are ways to get involved in the fight against puppy mills and unethical breeding:

1.) Visit the HSUS Stop Puppy Mills website and get involved.
2.) Turn in back yard breeders to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. All breeders are required to have a license.
3.) Encourage the AJC to stop allowing pets for sale unless the seller provides proof of a pet dealer license.
4.) Adopt, don't buy, and encourage your friends to do the same. We can help you find any breed, any age, any size you want. Visit Petfinder and Atlanta Pets to look for a pet.