Today I want to give you some harsh words about a phenomenon that I see a lot. In fact, two separate examples of this issue had already surfaced by ten o’clock this morning!
Here’s what I want to tell you: no matter what your parents told you when you were a kid, there is no magical farm where dogs with problems go to live out the rest of their days, jumping through the grass and playing in streams and chasing butterflies through a meadow. That place doesn’t exist. I know a lot of parents tell their kids that it exists when Rusty goes off to be put down, but it’s not real.
Why is this on my mind today? Because, as I mentioned before, two instances of it popped up today. The first was someone who emailed me to ask me to place their dog for them. The second was a man on Facebook who posted something along the lines of: “I have a dog who’s been fighting my other dog. She killed a skunk and a chicken, and I really need to get rid of her. Is there someplace that will take her?” Essentially, these people wanted someone to take care of their problem.
I’m not downplaying this burden because I understand the pain and the struggle that comes along with a dog whose problems you don’t know how to solve. But people need to ask themselves this question: if the owner and family member—who presumably loves the dog, and has attempted to teach him, and has spent money on his vet bills and food—is not willing to put in whatever it takes to make sure their dog goes to the right place, then why would anyone else do so?
Now, I can think of several nonprofit organizations that do take in very tough animals. But the only reason they come to mind is because there are only two or three of them in the country, and they’re famous for being the only ones that do what they do. They’ve got a waiting list ten miles long, so it’s highly unlikely that you will get your dog a place on it.
It’s also important to understand that this situation doesn’t always boil down the “saving” an animal. Sometimes, a dog simply isn’t a right fit. Not every dog should stay in the house that it started in, and some dogs need to be re-homed or trained. Unfortunately, some dogs may need to be put down. But gif the person who loves your dog most—you—isn’t willing to put in the effort to save him, then no one else will do it for you. No one will come to you and say, “Hey, you have a big problem? Give it to me! And by the way, I’ll take care of all the bills that go along with it!” That cop-out doesn’t exist.
Here’s the other thing that makes me sad. This topic frequently comes up because of behavior problems. Sometimes people tag me on Facebook and tell really sad stories: they lost their job, they have no money, their dog has an illness. But most of the time when people want someone to take the problem off their hands and do their dirty work for them, they’re dealing with a behavior problem. When I speak to these people, I ask, “What have you done to fix this?” They always say, “I’ve tried everything!” That’s the phrase I’ve heard a million times, and it always guarantees that this person tried everything that they thought of—in a five minute time span. They’ve tried everything they know to do, but they’re still dealing with this problem.
Well, of course! You’re never going to fix a problem with the same mindset that created it. If you ask what training these people have tried, then they might mention reading a book or watching a few Youtube videos. How many professional trainers have they hired? None. What they’re saying is that they tried everything that was free and took very little effort. Now they want somebody else to fix the problem, so they still don’t need to spend that time or money.
I know this sounds harsh, and that there are some scenarios that are more complex. But I’ve dealt with this exact situation a number of times, and it’s very frustrating. Many people just don’t have the drive or the knowledge to fix the problems they created, so they come to me instead. “Dear trainer, you solve a lot of problems like dog aggression—can you fix this?” they say. Or: “What rescue will take my dog and leave him in a pen until he dies?”
The bottom line is this: your dog, your responsibility. You need to train it or find a way to re-home it. In dire cases, you need to be the one who puts the dog. As ugly as that is, you need to be responsible and puts in the effort. No one else loves your dog enough to do it for you.