Working with dogs has highs and lows. Usually the highs outnumber the lows. However, some of the lows feel intensely personal, and can really take the wind from your sails. We’ve all had those low points, or we’re overdue to have one. What makes the low point feel so badly is never from the dog, but from people who observe from the outside. Whatever vested interest they may have in you, your program, or the dog in question, is purely out of your control. These people assume that if you disappoint them somehow, they have every right to put your feet to the fire…They might even get intensely personal. This happened to me recently, and I feel the need to hash it over in my mind. Since my mind and heart always produce written word, you can share it with me…
Most dogs will not successfully become Working Dogs. There…I wrote it in big, emphasized letters. It’s the only absolute truth that I know of in Dog-Training. Trainers might not like reading that, or worse, admitting it to themselves, but denial does not change truth. I work with a program that selects, acquires, and prepares dogs for various jobs, ranging from Therapy work to PTSD dogs, Emotional Support dogs, and commercially available private Scent Detection. It’s satisfying to find a dog that needs rescuing, or re-homing, and help it to become a useful member of a prospective new home. If a dog proves that it doesn’t have ONE of the many necessary traits for certain work, then we always try something else. If nothing else, we will produce a dog that can become a well-behaved family companion. What could be more fitting than a happy dog in a happy home? Our group always finds a good home for every dog, using whatever means we have at our disposal. We spread a WIDE NET in this search, and we turn LOTS of people away as unsuitable.
Unfortunately, there are always going to be those who will not understand this at all. “But that dog is from WXYZ Breeder! How could he fail?? His entire bloodline is spectacular!!! Why would post that dog on that Rescue site?? I thought that you were going to turn that dog into a superhero Therapy/S & R/Detection/Cadaver Dog, not just place him out for adoption!!! This isn’t what you promised!!! Trust me, and hard experience…Neither Bloodlines nor Individual Breeders insure that all of their dogs will be superdogs. Good Breeders KNOW that producing one GREAT Working dog out of a single litter is an accomplishment.
Again, the majority of dogs will not become top of the line Working dogs, despite the best efforts of trainers or behaviorist. It’s just not possible. I always want to respond to these types of questions with this: “Why isn’t your son an Olympic Sprinter? Or a Nobel Prize winning neurosurgeon? Or the next X-Factor Star? How did you fail him??” It’s really the same type of accusation.
Another Truth that can be hard to accept for some is that each and every dog is a unique individual. Every puppy in a litter is a separate little soul with it’s own behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. One of them may become a World-Class IPO dog, while another may still be taking a dump on the carpet at 5 years of age. Another might be a dearly loved Emotional Support dog, while another prefers to chew on it’s family’s dirty laundry. Humans are the same way.
The other problem that I’ve observed is Impatience with the process of choosing, evaluating, and training working dogs. We can observe a dog or puppy for suitability to train. We can begin the process of evaluating him for specialized training. Then, and only then, can we START the process of administering said training. Dogs washout during any one of these steps. They do so everyday. It takes TIME to see what qualities they do and do not possess. We are then forced to make decisions about each dog. Our responsibility is to produce a dog that can complete whatever specialized training they will receive. We are creating an important Life-Partner for a person in need, and we will never lessen our standards, even if we become emotionally attached to the dog ourselves. (And, in spite of best efforts, we DO) If we cannot trust that a dog will succeed and serve well, we are then responsible to find the dog a home. Which we do with great care. Not to mention our own expense in time and money.
A large number of GREAT DOGS have “washed-out” of advanced training. They live happily with families as wonderful pets, and much-loved companions. Those of us that work with (And FOR) these dogs go above and beyond what the general public realizes.
The other part of this equation involves terminology. Our own organization uses a “Rescue” format for a specific breed. These “Rescue Services” have vast and active memberships nation wide that find homes for well-trained pets. We don’t put dogs in “Shelters” or “Dog-Pounds” behind chain-link fences where they whine for human contact or a precious 5 minute exercise walk. We keep dogs at our places of business while we work, we take them home with us, we provide a great amount of activity to them, and they become our ad hoc “pets”. Until we can find them the home that suits them best. Every time. All of the Time.
I know this post will probably cause some few to think that I’m accusing them of butting into someone else’s business. Actually, I’m happy to have this opportunity to inform and educate you on behalf of the other people doing this difficult work nation wide. We step in where we are asked to step in, or where we must in time of need. We do our best, and we are successful most of the time. People that chatter behind the scenes cause good people to QUIT DOING THIS WORK. Those who do little or nothing but play watchdog, dissuade those who do something from ever doing it again. That’s tough to admit, but many of us feel that way. It proves that “No Good Deed Will Go Unpunished”.
If you check into other programs for training dogs for specific work (the deaf, the blind, stress management, diabetic detection, whatever) they all have lists of dogs that have been moved out of their programs due to a shopping list of things that make them unsuitable to that specific work. These dogs are eminently adoptable, and make wonderfully well-trained home companions. If you are interested, give the specific organizations a call. That’s all I have to say on this subject, except to make you understand that EVERY dog that goes thru our program, touches our hearts, and remains of great interest to us for their entire lifetime.