Friday, January 14, 2011

Pet Training Tips

Training your pet can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. Despite what you may have heard or read, anyone with patience and a willingness to learn, can teach their pets almost anything. These are just a few tips I've picked up during my lifetime of working with all sorts of animals.
  • Know Your Pet - Know and understand your pet. All pets have limitations - physical, emotional and intellectual limitations. Study the species and the breed to know what your pet is and is not capable of. Do not expect your Chihuahua to be able to pull 100 pounds or your parrot to learn to say all the words in the dictionary.
  • Know Yourself - Know yourself. Like your pet, you have limitations as well. Understand what you want from your pet and where you are willing to compromise when it comes to training your pet. Don't expect that you will be able to train your pet to do anything and everything.
  • It Takes Time - Understand that it takes time to train your pet. Your dog may have sit down perfectly one day and not be able to sit the next. Be willing to spend the necessary time training your pet. These times will vary. It is dependent upon you, your pet and the relationship you and your pet share.
  • Pet Training Classes - Pet training classes can be great. Be careful not to fall for scams. Always be a part of the pet training classes. Just because a trainer can teach your pet something does not mean your pet will do it for you. You must participate in the pet training classes, if you decide pet training classes are best for you.
  • Have the Right Tools - Have the right tools for training you pet. Dogs need collar, leashes and, probably, treats. Keep these tools and the others you need handy when training your pet. The right tools also include patience, understanding and a sense of humor.
Training your pet can be a reward experience for both your and your pet. Not only will it improve your pet's behavior, it will also strengthen the bond you and your pet share. Take it slow and enjoy the process.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caution: Animal Welfare Organizations May Not Be What They Seem

Animal lovers always want to help animals. Whether we take in strays off the street and become their forever family, volunteer at our local shelters and rescues or donate to animal causes, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. This is wonderful, if we are informed about what we are doing and exactly who we are helping. Not all animal welfare organizations are truly looking improving the lives of animals. Here are a few tips that will help you be better informed about animal welfare organizations:
  • Know the Subtle Differences - Know the differences in animal rights organizations and animal welfare organizations. Many animal rights organizations use the majority of the funds they receive for lobbyists to pass or stop laws concerning animal rights. Is this how you want your money spent? Or, would you prefer the money be used to help fund shelters, spay/neuter programs and the like? If your preference is the latter, you would be served to donate to an animal welfare organization.
  • Watch What The Organization Does - Actions speak louder than words. Stay up-to-date on what the organization is doing. Are they active in their local community or do they concentrate on international animal rights/animal welfare issues? Is the organization putting animals before humans when it comes to specific issues such as pet ownership? Do they have educational programs? If so, who and what are these educational programs teaching?
  • Understand Your Views - Have a clear understanding of what you believe and what you stand for when it comes to animal rights and animal welfare. Only help those organizations that have similar views. Check and double check the stance the organization takes on the issues you feel strongly about. Know which issues you are willing to compromise and those you are not.
The best way to truly know if you are helping improve the lives of animals to do your own research. Online inquiries, personal telephone calls and visits work well. Read the organization's printed material as well as their laws and bylaws. You do not want to be working to help an organization whose intentions do not match yours.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cons of No-Kill Shelters

In theory, no-kill shelters sound perfect. We all want to believe that homeless pets can live in a safe and loving environment until they are adopted and go to live in their "forever home." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Rarely does the Pollyanna idea of no-kill shelters actually work. These are just a few reasons why no-kill shelter do not work well.
  • Too Many Homeless Pets - There are too many homeless pets for a no-kill shelter to truly work. While they are housing and fostering homeless pets, others are being turned away. Those homeless pets remain on the streets.
  • Limited Space - No-kill shelters, like all shelters, have limited space. Once they have reached their maximum capacity, homeless and unwanted pets do not have a place to go. They live wherever they can and the unwanted pets are stuck in homes without the love and attention they need.
  • Limited Funds - No-kill shelters have limited funds. While no-kill shelters are feeding, housing and taking care of the medical needs of a few homeless pets, thousands more remain hungry, homeless and without veterinary care.
  • Limited Animal Caregivers - No-kill shelters have limited animal care givers, whether those caregivers are employees or volunteers. As with all animal shelters and rescues, there are only a few people who care for the homeless pets.
  • Shelter Life Isn't Much of a Life -  Homeless pets that spend months and, sometimes years, in a shelter/rescue environment are not happy. Many dogs go "cage crazy." Cats can become very territorial in their cages. They are lonely and depressed without a true family to love them.
  • Fostered Pets Are Still Homeless - Fostered pets do not understand they are not living in their forever home. When (if) they are adopted, they miss their foster family. Some are not able to adjust to their new home. For many animals, this can be considered emotional cruelty.
As harsh and uncaring as it may sound it is usually best to euthanize homeless pets when they aren't adopted. Not only does this prevent the one homeless pet from suffering, it can save the lives of many more there wouldn't be room for. One homeless pet can exhaust valuable resources that could be used to save the lives of many other homeless pets.

It is a horrible line that animal shelters and rescues must walk. Deciding who can live and die and who will be alone and who will have a family are painful choices that much be made. The whole picture must be seen and the best choices for all the homeless pets must be made. Kill-shelters understand this and, as difficult as it it, they save as many as they can.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All About Teddy

Teddy came into the shelter/rescue where I was the Public Relations Coordinator. His family said they couldn't keep him any longer; it was too expensive to pay the fines for him getting picked by animal control. I asked if they had a fence and a series of information-gaining questions. I shocked by the answers.

"Yes, we have a fence," the man said, lowering his head.

"How is he getting out of the fence?" I asked, concerned about Teddy being an escape artist. No answer.

"What type of fence do you have?"

"It is a six foot privacy fence," the man answered.

"Is he digging out?" The man said no. I asked if he climbed the fence and the answer was no. I also asked if he knocked the fence down. The answer was no. I was perplexed. How does a dog get out of a fenced yard when he isn't digging out, climbing out or knocking it down?

"How is Eddie getting out of the yard?" My question fell on deaf ears. The man didn't say a word. Finally, his little boy answered my question, choking back his tears.

"Daddy forgets to close the garage doors and Teddy walks through the garage from the backyard."

I looked at the man and he nodded. His explanation left me even more perplexed.

"It is such a hassle to have to shut the doors when I'm late for work. I don't have the time to do and, even if I did, I would probably forget anyway. Can you take him - even though he won't stay in his yard?"

I nodded and took Teddy's leash. We were more than happy to take a dog in whose owners weren't responsible enough to shut a door.

His family left and walked him to his run. Teddy lived in that run for about six weeks. He refused to eat the first week, no matter how we begged or what we offered him. His heart was broken. Visitors walked past him every day. No one seemed interested in this Mastiff/Australian Cattle Dog mix that had one blue eye and one brown and whose coat was both shaggy and short. Teddy was too big for people to see him as the lap dog he truly was and his strange appearance didn't set well with them either.

That was fine though. Teddy was adopted by the Alzheimer's Association and became a service dog for an elderly woman who wandered away from home and would forget to turn off the stove. He was taught to stay with her, call the woman's daughter on the phone, and to turn off the stove as well as all sorts of other things.

I get Christmas cards from Teddy every year. One letter told how "his lady" walked away from home one day and he stayed by her side the entire time. He was finally able to get the attention of a man who came to help. Teddy actually ripped the man's pants, pulling the man to his owner. The man noticed the woman looked confused and saw her "Alzheimer's Alert bracelet." Not bad for a dog who "wouldn't stay in his yard."

I learned a few years later that his lady passed away and he now lives with her daughter and four grandchildren. She grew quite found of Teddy and couldn't bear to see him go.

Please think about Teddy the next time you visit an animal shelter or rescue. Most of the dogs aren't problems; they are possibilities with a lot of promise. It wasn't Teddy's fault he was brought to the shelter. Chances are, the dogs you see aren't to blame for their current situation.