And it goes on and on and on- Wake up UK!
We have a problem. It has been a problem for a while now, and sadly is getting worse and worse.
The UK dog population is a MESS. A real mess.
We have never come across so many dogs with behavioural issues as we are seeing now. We are contacted about dogs with behavioural issues that need rescue space on a daily basis, and sadly we cannot help many of them.
As a foster based rescue we have to be careful about what dogs we place in our foster homes, so have to limit the number of dogs that we take in with severe issues. We do rent a few kennels for dogs with more severe needs, and pay for behaviourists to work with those dogs. This costs the rescue high amounts of money which in turn reduces the number of dogs that we can help, so we are having to turn away dogs without issues too.
Its so sad that so many dogs have behavioural issues. As a behaviourist i am fortunate enough to work with the owners that want to help their dogs and seek help and advice, but on the rescue side we tend to see the owners who just want to rehome.
Obviously some dogs have deep rooted issues caused by things outside of their owners control. Some owners try everything before seeking a rescue space for their dog, but others don’t try at all. We were recently contacted by a lady who needed to rehome her dog ‘straight away’ as it chased cyclists and would nip at them. She wasn’t willing to work with the dog. Why not pop the dog on lead, muzzle and get a behaviourist or trainer in to help? Why go straight to the rehoming option?
We have a bit of a culture where we feel that its acceptable to get rid of things when they don’t work… washing machine playing up? Get rid and buy new, rather then fix it. The same attitude is being seen in dog owners. Dog not behaving how you want to too? Get rid. What a pity.
The number of reported dog bites is also rising, and as much as the government and media would love you to believe that it is down to certain dog breeds, it is actually nothing to do with a dogs breed, so stop blaming them!
There are many many many reasons why dogs can have behavioural problems. Some dogs have fear related issues as a result of an incident that has occurred during the dogs life- such as an attack by another dog. Fear based reactivity is horrible and both the dogs and owners have my full sympathy.
We see people who have had their dogs from puppies, who have chosen totally the wrong breed for them. They struggle to give the dog what they need both mentally and physically, but were attracted to the breed because they look attractive, or cute, or whatever.
Then there are those who get a puppy and expect the puppy to magically turn into a well trained, well rounded dog, with minimal training and socialisation. They expect that puppy to understand sit, stay, leave, come, without teaching the dog what those words actually mean. Its a bit like me saying “banana” to you and expecting you to know that banana means sit. Dogs are not born understanding English. These same people expect their dogs to cope in all sorts of situations automatically as an adult, even if they haven’t exposed the dogs to any of these situations (in a careful, controlled positive manner) as a puppy.
Then we have breeding. Now before I am lynched I would like to state that yes I know there are some breeders who select the dogs they breed from, and give their puppies the best start possible. However sadly the majority of puppies are not bought from good breeders. They tend to be bought from puppy farms or back yard breeders.
Puppies tend to be born in poor conditions. On puppy farms they have no interaction with people apart from when their food is shoved into their pen, they do not meet other pets, or get used to normal household sounds. They do not get all of the essential socialisation or habituation that puppies should. Backyard breeders are often not that much better. As a result, the puppies can be left with long term health and behavioural problems and buying from these places should be avoided at ALL costs.
Why are people breeding from nervous dogs? Why are people breeding from dogs with health or behavioural problems and then expecting the puppies to be fine. Why are people buying these puppies?
Why aren’t people investing time and effort into their puppies or dogs anymore? Can’t people see what is happening? We have created a generation of messed up unhealthy, stressed dogs.
Its time for something to change. Attitudes towards dog ownership needs to change. People need to put as much thought into getting a dog as they do when buying a house, or having a child.
Otherwise the current trend will continue and more dogs will die. Healthy happy dogs will die because of lack of rescue space, and rescues will close due to being crippled by kennel and behaviourist bills.
Rescues cannot save every single dog.
Dog breeders- if you are going to breed then breed responsibly. Breed from well rounded dogs and bitches. Give your puppies life time back up. Do not bring more troubled dogs into the world.
Dog Owners- Research the right breed for you before you go out and get a dog. If you buy from a breeder go to a good breeder- don’t go for the cheapest dog that you can find in the quickest time possible. Then invest time and effort into socialising and training your dog- for the rest of it’s life! Take responsibility for your dog. Manage the environment, and if you end up with a dog that has behavioural issues then seek help! If you have tried everything to help your dog, but can’t give your dog the environment or help that it needs and need to rehome then rescues will understand. We will appreciate that you have tried, and if we have space will try to help.
So come on, lets stop the current trend. Lets give our dogs a chance.
Rachel Hayball ISCP.Dip.Canine.Prac.
(Rachel Hayball is our Chair of Trustees and also runs Life Skills Dog Training. She is a Registered Accredited Animal Behaviourist with the ABTC )