Posts Tagged ‘advocate’

It starts with advocating when you’re picking out a puppy from a breeder, a shelter or recue group; and continues through the rest of your dog’s life. You might not think certain circumstances would require you to advocate for your dog, but if you think about it every situation is an opportunity to be a voice for your dog. You’re the only one who can give your dog a voice, so make sure you never let an opportunity go by where you can.

When you’re choosing your canine companion, asking as many questions on the dog’s background as you can not only helps determine if this is the right fit for you, but can save you a lot of heartache and medical bills in the future (for information on breeders and what to ask them see the July 11th 2010 Special Paws blog post).

Similarly, ask rescues and shelters what background information they have on the pup you’re interested in. Ask them what behaviors they’ve observed with animals that make them say “no cats” in the dog’s new home, or similarly “no kids.” Ask them how they came to have the dog, what they know about his behavior and how they know it. What type of training (if any) have they been doing with the dog? Have any canine behavior professionals been working with the dog? Have volunteers have been working with the dog? If so, how often? Has the dog been through any other shelters or rescues that they know of? Asking these questions will give you an insight into things such as whether a dog has a high prey drive, if he is afraid of anything, how many times the dog may have been adopted and returned (and the reasons for the return) as well as possibly if one organization may not have been willing to adopt this dog out but another was. You’ll want to make sure you try to find out as much of this information as possible.  

What about once you’ve gotten your dog home? Looking for a trainer? Make sure to ask what their training philosophies are. How did they get their experience? Are they continuing their education and if so, how? Ask them to list some of their favorite canine behavior experts or favorite books. Do they match yours? (For more information in choosing a trainer, see my July 25, 2009 post below.)

What about a groomer? Ask them if they’ll let you watch while they groom. Look to see if they ever leave a dog unattended on a grooming table. Are they paying attention to the dog and what they’re doing 100% of time? Is the groomer on the cell phone while a dog is on the table? How are they handling the dogs? Do they recognize the signs that a dog is tense, anxious or fearful? How do they react when they see these signs?

A doggie day care? Who watches the dogs when they’re in their playgroups? What kind of training do the owners and staff have on running a daycare and on canine behavior? You can also ask them if they are continuing their education and if so how. Ask them to list some of their favorite canine behavior experts or favorite books. You can ask them what they’d do in a specific situation: say if one dog isn’t responding appropriately when another dog lets him know he doesn’t want to play anymore. Are they giving a time out or using some other method? If they’re giving a time out, are they doing so for 30 seconds, 5 minutes or an hour? And how do they get the time out? Look around for things you don’t want used on your dog such as spray bottles.

A dog walker? Do they give private walks or group walks? Do they have their own employees or are they using contractors? Do they leave you a report after every walk? Do they let you know before the walk is over if a dog hasn’t eliminated so you can tell them what you’d like them to do (keep walking a bit or just take the dog home)? Do they let you meet the management as well as your walker prior to the start of the service? Do they give you ample notice if your regular walker will be out?

How about if you’re looking for a vet? Do their views on vaccine titers match yours? What about behavior advice? Ask them what types of trainers and behaviorists they refer their clients too. Do they have a clear preference of one philosophy over another? Do these match yours? Are they insisting they roll the puppy on her back to see if your puppy is “dominant,” etc.? Do they offer you behavior advice or diagnosis or do they instead give you the name of a trainer or trainers in the area? Are you able to go in the exam room with your dog? Will they let you restrain your dog if the circumstances warrant it or do they insist on doing it themselves? If they want to be the ones doing it, ask how they’ll hold your dog and how they’ll get ahold of your dog.

Anytime anyone will be alone for any period of time with your dog or handling your dog (whether you’re there or not), it’s your duty to ask questions.  Whatever service you’re looking into, before signing up make sure you sit down and jot down a list of questions that you’d like answered in order for you to feel comfortable about your dog in a given situation. The questions above are just a tiny fraction of the questions you could/should ask in each scenario. If you’re not sure why you’d want to ask some of the particular questions I have chosen, carefully research the services and the different answers you’re likely to get in each industry. Then before you ask the questions, you’ll know what types of answers you yourself would like to hear. If during the time you’re asking questions anything makes you uncomfortable, don’t feel bad about leaving and looking for someone else.

Sometimes it only takes one thing to change how a dog view’s a situation (from neutral to unsafe or neutral to great, for example), asking questions is one way for you to influence how your dog sees his world.

Our dogs can’t ask questions or speak up for themselves, so it’s up to us to make sure they are always safe– and not just in good, but great hands.


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