Backyard Dogs? Life, Love, and Laughter with Dogs
Our new foster dog (foster dogs tend to be a common occurrence in our household) is a sweet ten month old yellow Labrador named Millie. Millie’s owners bought her as a cute eight week old puppy; fat, cuddly and loveable (you can picture it). Their decision to buy her was entirely based on how cute she was. Well, as those of you know who have ever gotten a new puppy, they are not all just cuddles and kisses.
Sweet, cuddly Millie started peeing and pooping in their house, jumping on the kids, and chewing on their furniture. Her owners were totally overwhelmed and decided to make Millie an outside dog. She was thrown out of the house into their fenced-in backyard. They bought her a dog house, fed her everyday, brought her to the vet for her vaccinations but otherwise ignored her for the next eight months of her life. She received no socialization with dogs or people outside their immediate family (even that was minimal) and was totally bonkers when I picked her up.
I have heard this same story told over and over again in my years of training dogs (and more importantly their owners) and I wish I could just shout out from the rooftops “This is wrong, don’t do it!” There are many ways to get through the hardships of puppyhood but unfortunately many people don’t go looking for the answers and are satisfied instead with the easiest solution, turning them into the increasingly popular “backyard dog”.
I think we forget that besides dog being “man’s best friend,” man is also dog’s best friend. They need companionship to be fulfilled in life and when we pay the money to the pet store, breeder, friend, or shelter and take home our new dog they are our emotional, physical and financial responsibility.
The first thing that I always tell new puppy owners in every lesson is “socialize, socialize, socialize!” Lack of socialization is the number one killer of dogs in this country today… NUMBER ONE! Dogs are euthanized every day for a variety of behavioral problems that could be prevented. This is definitely not something to be taken lightly.
In my opinion dogs need to have met twenty-five to thirty dogs of varying ages as well as at least one hundred men and children by the time they are thirteen weeks. Some of you may be saying that this is unrealistic, especially because a puppy is not fully vaccinated until they are sixteen weeks. My response would be “then carry them.”
Taking your puppy to your kid’s soccer game is an excellent way to do this. Kids are screaming, Dad’s are shouting “DEFENSE” at the top of their lungs and other people bring their dogs too so you are killing three birds with one stone.
Millie is one of those dogs who missed out on the critical socialization period so while she is not an aggressive dog, she is overly excited when she sees just about anyone, man or beast. Believe it or not, many dogs are put down every day simply because they are too hyper or wild for the average family. Since Millie has been at our house I have added lots of structure, interaction and obedience to her daily life and she is already a different dog.
Prevention must be our goal for the future. If we properly socialize our puppies (safely and positively) then we won’t end up with these hyperactive, fearful, anxious, man-aggressive, child-aggressive (I could go on and on) dogs later on in life. I can’t implore you enough to spread the word. Prevention is the key!
-by Annie Bailey, co-owner of FabDogz, professional dog trainer and behaviorist, member of the APDT and lover of all dogs! All questions and comments are greatly appreciated!! annie [at] fabdogz [dot] comBackyard Dogs? Life, Love, and Laughter with Dogs,