I am back from meeting with a potential client and I am heartbroken.
I was contacted by the client who had heard about my fundamental training with Cesar Millan and she wanted to have me work with them to help correct some behavior issues they were having with their new dog. We had chatted on the phone and she shared how her family had desperately wanted to have a dog. They had never lived in a house that they could own a dog and had recently moved to a new home that permitted dogs. They went to a local rescue and fell in love with a Rotweiller. They brought the dog home and the dog was everything they dreamed of, he was perfect and they fell in love. Within two weeks, they noticed something was off with the dog. After a vet visit and tests, they learned that their prized dog was having kidney failure. They had to make a very hard decision and euthanized him and end the suffering he was going through. It was the best decision to make for the dog.
They still dreamed of having a dog as a member of their family. They went on a search and again wanted to give a rescue dog a place in their family. They visited a rescue and viewed the available dogs. There was a litter of puppies and the mother and children fell in love with a little black girl "lab mix" puppy. Dad wasn't sure about the dog, since the rest of the family was they soon made arrangements to bring her home.
Things went well at first but as the puppy grew, the problems began. Excessive barking, chewing and an energy level that even 6 walks a day were not working to get her in to a calm state. She was like a newborn baby and didn't sleep for more than a few hours and would begin acting up until someone from the family would give her attention. They were all exhausted and losing hope. The mom called me and we set up time for a lesson after the holidays. I did a preliminary session over the phone and gave her instruction on pack leadership and making sure she was the one to set the energy level. I gave her nose work exercises to work with her and coached her on the use of a crate. She said she felt it was cruel to keep her in the crate all night. I shared my viewpoint that the crate is the best place for a dog while you are working on training and getting them to understand that she needed to be kept in the crate so she could associate the crate with calmness and a safe haven for her. I received an e-mail from the mom yesterday explaining that her husband was at the end of his rope. I again stressed that she needed to be the leader for the dog, I asked about the energy level and the level of stress that she was feeling, she was losing hope. I told her that I thought the best thing until I could meet with her was to crate the dog whenever she was getting to an elevated state and could not be calmed down. I asked her to put the dog in the crate before they went to bed and see how the night went.
We set up a time for me to meet with her this morning when she brought the dog in to get her nails cut. When I met with the mom her eyes filled with tears. Through her tears she told me that the dog bit one of the children this morning. She said that they had put her in her crate and she did wonderful, this morning when the daughter bent down to put her leash on, the dog nipped her. The daughter is fine, but was very scared at how quickly the dog went from coming calmly out of the crate and then had tried to bite her. Her husband was angry and frustrated. I understand how he felt, as a parent I would probably be no different. He asked his wife "When do we decide that enough is enough? How bad does it have to get?". Very hard questions leading to a very hard decision.
Do you keep a dog because you care for her and are afraid of what might happen if you have to surrender the dog? Does that put the importance of the dog above the welfare of your child?
I am heartbroken because of the hurt that I see her going through and I only know her through a phone conversation, an e-mail and today's meeting. She genuinely loves the dog. I am frustrated with all of the animal rescue sites that list dogs as "lab mix". This dog was in no way a lab mix. The dog was smaller than any Labrador I have seen. The coat was not the right texture, I could not see lab in the dog. Looking at the shape of the head of the dog and the muscular structure and it's tail this dog was most likely a Pit Bull mix.
Pit Bulls are not bad dogs. I think they are beautiful dogs and I respect the power they have. I treat pit bulls no differently that any other breed of dog that I meat, I follow Cesar's rules, "No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact" with any new dog I meet. All dogs are instinctual, they reason with their instinct and survive because they are instinctual. The Pit Bulls that I have met and worked with have strong characteristics that need to be handled by an owner who has a full understanding of the breed. They are truly a smart dog and can be a wonderful pet in a home where there is a strong consistent pack leader.
I believe animal rescue is the right choice to make when selecting a dog to be part of your pack. Animal Rescues have the best intention for the dogs in their care, they want each dog to find a forever home and live a long happy life with their new family. They work very hard to place dogs in homes and I am grateful that they are willing to do this task.
But I feel this family should have been spared all of the pain and conflict that they have gone through. I believe if the cute little black puppy had been called what it was "Pit Bull Mix", this family would not be hurting right now. If they had known more about the dog, they could have prepared themselves differently and instead of surrendering the dog they could be living a balance life with her. Perhaps they may have decided to wait for another dog had they known the true breed identity.
To all who work in rescues, I thank you for your work, you do so much good for dogs. If I could ask one thing - call it what it is. Maybe by calling it what it is, there will be less surrenders and more adoption success stories.