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A Fair Shake.

We see it all the time, ‘Adopt don’t shop’ or ‘Rescued is my favorite breed’ – it’s everywhere, car magnets, shirts, trendy nick-knacks. It’s heartwarming to see the love society has developed for animals in need. But what we don’t see advertised, is the work required to give the dog a fair shake.

Dogs have certainly become part of our daily lives. They’re in just about every marketing campaign, on every billboard, commercial, family sitcom, you name it. Businesses are allowing dogs to tag along, there’s even bakeries specifically for dogs these days. As much as we love seeing man’s best friend everywhere we turn, to some degree, it glamorizes unrealistic expectations. What people don’t see, is the work that was put in, and continues throughout the dog’s life, that makes for a ‘good dog.’ It also alludes to every dog being perfect, friendly, and social. But that’s a topic for another day.

When we don’t set the right expectation, we set our dog up for failure.

An adopter will come along, and it seems like a perfect match. Little do we know, this adopter expected the dog to just be naturally perfect on her own. Not realizing that dog’s do not speak English, they do not have complex emotions like humans, and they don’t process logic in the sense that we do. The new dog should automatically know it’s not allowed on the nice furniture, to keep it’s nose out of the trash can, that certain rooms of the house are off limits – things we expect our children to observe and understand. The difference with dogs, they can observe all day long, but they only know what we teach them. Because, to a degree, they do in fact learn through observation – the human sits on that couch, so can I.

We are then so focused on what the dog does wrong, that we not only forget to show them what’s right, but we disregard what they actually DO do right. We get stuck on our frustrations. Not to say that owning a dog can’t be frustrating, of course there are always challenges when dealing with a free-thinking being of any sort. It’s what you do with that frustration that changes the situation – for the better, or for worse.

Do people honestly intend to set out as dictators instead of a nurturing leader? I highly doubt it.

A lot of rescued dogs have issues. It’s a fact that cannot be argued. So do we help, or do we hurt? Do we teach, or condemn? Some of these dogs spent their entire lives on a chain, in a kennel, or just running the streets. Then we place them in a home and expect them to immediately know how to conduct themselves? I think not.

As a rescue organization, we do our best to teach the dog how to cope, and how to coexist in this new environment. And then we pass the torch to their adopter. It’s now their job to guide them through their new life, and with any luck, they’ll do so as a benevolent leader, rather than a dictator.

So what do you do when the going gets tough? Do you throw in the towel, or do you commit to seeing this through- after all, owning a dog is a long term commitment. Dogs who are continuously displaced, end up with more issues. Is that something you can walk away from, knowing you had an opportunity to change the outcome?

And to be honest, it doesn’t matter if you get a dog from a rescue, or a breeder. Challenges will arise. Work has to be put in. Time has to be allotted. You have to have empathy to a degree that allows you to shake the frustration, and approach the problem in a productive manner that the dog understands.

Are you willing to give your new dog a fair shake?

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