A Letter to Breeders and Rescue Groups
I LOVE what you do! I LOVE what you stand for! BUT, as a dog trainer, I've been coming across this way more then I would like - adopting the "wrong" dog out to an elderly person.
Case in point:
Case 1: Couple: Acquire a Shih Tzu Puppy from a Breeder
Issue: Husband is battling health issues -both have difficulty bending over and getting up off the floor, and lacking the energy to chase a young puppy around. Because of this, the puppy is developing serious potty-training and behavioral problems. Further complicating matters, they currently have an elderly Shih Tzu with health issues.
Solution: Working on puppy training, but also the obstacles that are put in front of us. Because, trying to have them bend over even while sitting on furniture can be difficult for them, neither can get on the floor with the puppy. For this couple, using a leash to better maintain and control their puppy within the household will be extremely helpful, as will limiting access through-out the house.
Case 2: Woman Acquires a Young Terrier Mix from Rescue Group
Issue: Woman is scheduled for hip surgery and is unable to easily bend over or run. Dog is super friendly, but high energy, and requires basic obedience training. Dog has run away, and woman was unable to chase after dog. Her previous dogs have been elderly.
Solution: Working on how to properly discipline a young dog, adding more command work, and giving her tools to maintain and control her dog. Giving her techniques that will assist her in the training as well as keeping in mind of her physical limitations.
Case 3: Woman with Cats Acquired a Young Terrier Mix from Rescue Group
Issue: Woman has had hip surgery. Although her mobility has improved, she is in her 70's and cannot run sprints chasing after a terrier mix. She has a couple of cats, and another dog that is still high energy, but better trained and more obedient. The terrier mix is wreaking havoc on her cats, and she is unable to move quickly to address the behavior, which is causing extreme stress within the household of your felines.
Solution: Unfortunately, in this case I recommended she return the dog to the rescue group. She did, and she messaged me saying it was the best decision for her and her cats.
So, dear breeders and rescue groups, I get it. I understand the urgency of wanting to turn-around the dogs you have rescued; I understand that the breeder wants to make their money. I get it. Having a dog returned to you is neither your goal nor your desire, but it may likely happen when placed with inappropriate or poorly-matched owners. This causes confusion to the dog and may contribute to more behavioral issues, and lack of desirability of adopting a dog that has been returned.
Please assess your "elderly" clientele carefully. Ask about the types of dogs they have had in the past and familiarize yourself with their pet-owning history. Yes, maybe they had a puppy before and it was a GREAT dog, but was that 20 years ago? 20 years makes a BIG difference when we're talking about from 50 to 70 or from 60 to 80 years old.
Please also take the time to assess the breed match. Everyone knows Terriers are feisty, spirited, and typically busy dogs! Nothing wrong with that unless paired with a 70 year old person that isn't physically able to keep up. Yes, I know there are a lot of active 70 year old too, but that is not what this blog is about!
So I reiterate, I LOVE what you do, but my goal as a dog trainer is to have more successful matches with dogs and the best people suited to care for them.