The Question I Want to Ask People Who Surrender Their Dogs
The one question I want to ask people who surrender their dogs is ‘what did you expect?’
Now before you get all excited let me assure you this isn’t about shaming people who surrender their pets. It’s an honest question.
I want to know how these dogs differ from what the owner was expecting.
And I’m not talking about dogs being surrendered for serious behavioral problems. I’m talking about dogs surrendered because they’re too hyper, have poor manners, or chewed up the curtains.
Reasons us seasoned dog owners would consider minor.
What Do We Really Expect From Dogs?
When I was young one of my favorite things to do was to ride horses. I didn’t have any of my own, nor did my friends, so it was something I did occasionally at riding stables.
A few years later, after many stable rides & feeling quite confident in my skills, I rode my aunts horse for the first time.
Holy crap. That was not the same thing at all.
He bucked, he kicked, and he did everything he could to scare the crap out of me. Rather than walk on the nice trail I suggested he took off running as fast as he could to some river a few miles away. (maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it was pretty scary)
I realized quickly that I knew very little about horses, no matter how many times I’d gone riding at the stables.
How Much Training Does the Average Person Think a Dog Needs?
When it comes to dogs I wonder if people have that same level of shock when their own dog exhibits a lack of natural good manners.
‘Cindy’s dog is polite, and Sam’s dog just chills at his feet. Why doesn’t mine do that? What’s wrong with my dog?’
Now if you’re not directly involved with dogs on a daily basis how much do you think you’d about dog training? I think we all know that dogs need to be potty trained, and that they can learn some pretty cool tricks like play dead. But what else?
When it comes “popular” dog training well all know there’s that one TV show, but that’s for really bad dogs, not normal ones.
I think back to all the conversations I’ve had with people over the years when it comes to dog training. Most people didn’t know what impulse control is or why it’s important to add mental exercise to their dogs routine.
Those of us involved in the “dog world” know it, but I get the impression it’s not well known to most people.
I thought I knew a lot about horses after riding them 10+ times at the stables, but I realized immediately as I got on my aunt’s horse how ill prepared I was. Before that crazy ride I had an idea of what owning a horse might be like, but it was far from the reality.
Your neighbor’s 7 year old Collie mix that you hang out with all the time is chill & relaxed, but you’d be in for a hell of a surprise if you got a Collie mix puppy of your own. And maybe that’s where some of the disconnect lies when it comes to dogs. We all know people who have dogs, but do we really know what it was like to raise them?
How Much Would I Know About Training if I Weren’t a “Dog” Person?
I’ve had dogs my whole life; I couldn’t honestly tell you what I’d expect from a dog if I’d never owned one before.
Would I know how important socialization is? Would I yell at my new dog for peeing on the floor? Would I go pick out a cute puppy from my local pet store? Would I read a bunch of “best breed for first time dog owners” lists and end up with a Lab?
I don’t know.
All breeds, regardless of how “easy going” they are according to some top 10 list need work that goes beyond potty training. When it comes to deciding whether o not to get a dog do we put too much emphasis on choosing the right breed versus choosing the right dog?
Now I’m not blaming anyone for this mentality about dog ownership, I’m just wondering why there’s any assumption at all that owning a dog is simple or easy.
Perhaps it’s not common knowledge that training goes well beyond potty training and tricks. Dogs don’t just grow out of bad behaviors, they have to be taught. Puppies that aren’t taught manners will grow into bigger dogs without manners. Maybe that’s why so many dogs seem to be surrendered during their adolescent phase.
Maybe There’s Just Too Many Cute Puppies
Maybe the problem is that it’s just too easy to go out and buy a puppy, ignoring the consequences of a 10+ year relationship.
It’s a cute puppy after all, what could possibly go wrong. But the problem is that once a puppy isn’t so “cute” anymore those behavioral problems become an issue.
And when that something goes wrong I want to know why. I want to know what makes their dog “difficult,” and why he’s different from what they were expecting.
I think it would provide valuable insights into what people expect from dogs.
And eventually we in the dog community could start coming up with a better way to articulate what it really means to own a dog. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Would it help? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m certainly willing to try.
I don’t know why people surrender their dogs minor behavioral issues, and from everything I’ve read on the subject I know I’m not alone.
I’d like to think we could all understand a bit more if we could just ask ‘what did you expect?’
I’ve never surrendered an animal and I did grow up with dogs (I had a dog before I ever had siblings), but I did end up with a dog that went against everything that I knew about dogs. I think for me, a big part of it is that my mom did all of the puppy training–while I was either too little to notice it or at school–so I just got to enjoy the fun parts of dog ownership as a kid. I’m sure I’m not alone in growing up with Mom and Dad walking the dog while the kids ride their bikes or Mom and Dad doing the potty training, the no chewing on furniture training, and the no biting training while the kids are at school or at friends’ houses–so I just naturally assumed that we’d always gotten “good” dogs. When I got Barley, I realized that might not actually have been the case and regularly called my mom to thank her for all of the hard work she put into our family dogs. For people who grew up like I did, they might not realize the significant amount of time that it takes to train a dog until that dog is actually in their house.
Jen Gabbard says
I completely agree. Although I’ve grown up with dogs I’ve certainly had situations as an adult with my own dogs that I wouldn’t have predicted. I love that you gave your mom props for how she raised your family dogs, it’s something I know I certainly took for granted growing up.
This is the reverse of my situation growing up. Our family had outdoor dogs and I always wanted them to be indoors and more a part of the family. When I got my first dog I was determined to get him potty trained, socialized, and teach him good house manners. I read up as much as possible including researching best breeds for my lifestyle. In the end I did everything my family didn’t do when I was a kid.
Jen Gabbard says
The neighborhood I live in now (it’s just a dirt road, really) is similar. My neighbors all have outdoor dogs (and cats), and it’s so different from the “norm” I was used to growing up.
Puppy Tales Studio says
I love this article so much. I had to share it! There are just too many dogs in shelters because they were raised poorly. Love
I often find myself wanting to thank the person who surrendered my dog. She was surrendered to the RSPCA because she was left alone for 9+ hours in the day and had developed destructive behavior and separation anxiety. I want to know why they thought that these behaviors wouldn’t develop in a staffy cross puppy. But I believe the fact that they recognised that they couldn’t provide the care that she needed is commendable, rather than let it get worse as time went on.
So, person who gave up my baby, thank you for doing so so that I can love her for the next 15 years.
Jen Gabbard says
Wonderful point, from what I’ve seen the dogs who get adopted from shelters/rescues usually end up in awesome homes. I’ve worked with a few people (in a non-dog related field) who have cited similar issues with their dogs that are left alone during the day. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that it takes extra time, dedication & effort once you get home to make it work. Unfortunately I get the impression that a lot of people don’t give their dog enough training and/or stuff to do, thus the behavioral problems get worse.
Kate Obrien says
Such a good question – I’ve always thought there should be licensing requirements for pet ownership…for parenthood too for that matter!
A colleague bought a rare-breed dog for her family. She knew nothing about dogs, and admitted she’s a little afraid of them. She admitted to me that she had NO IDEA how much work dogs are, and was flabbergasted when I told her they require a lifetime commitment and daily training. This is an educated, successful, and very smart woman — who had no idea. I think the breeders should educate people about what they’re getting into (owning a dog is like having a perpetual two year old). She said they could never leave the dog alone and it was disrupting their household. I recommended a trainer and sent her a good book (Calming Signals), but I don’t know what she did. If they surrendered the dog, it would be because it didn’t fit into their lifestyle and they didn’t have the time or knowledge that it takes to care for and train a dog. I’m a relatively new dog owner (3 years), and I had the opportunity to live with a boyfriend’s dog before I adopted my own pit bull from the shelter. That ex BF was very involved fostering, and taught me how much work it is. The rewards are tremendous, but a huge majority of people see dogs on TV and in the media and have NO IDEA. I know I didn’t. Now I’m a big advocate for positive training, and actively involved in the shelter community in my area.
Jen Gabbard says
Excellent points, I do think dog ownership is often over simplified, at least when it comes to the actual day to day necessities. We hear a lot about what supplies & gear we need, what breeds might suit us, and not nearly as much about the time & dedication needed for our dogs to be well balanced.
E pluribus unum says
there’s like 4 questions there…
and you could’ve simply said “Let me start by saying, I don’t care about your reasons, now here’s a bunch of questions that are just here to give you guilt”
Jen Gabbard says
There’s multiple scenarios in which I provide sure, but they all boil down to the same question “what did you expect?”
And it’s an honest question, not meant to make people feel guilty. It’s meant to provide insights into what people expect from dogs when they get them vs what actually happens.
I have had dachshunds all my life and while they are not the easiest dogs to live with I never consider any other dog. This is partly because I love them but maybe more importantly because I wouldn’t make a fifteen year commitment for an unknown. A breeder I know well will not let any of her puppies go to someone without prior dachshund experience. Knowing what to expect is extremely important when you take on the commitment of owning a dog!
Those peoples who surender at pets once they grow up and are not mannered they should not even Be called humans. First of all, what i saw among my friends who thinks a dog is cute but once they are facing with responsabilities choose to run and drop him they are also unable to educate own kids. So in a moment or other they will do the same with their childrens as does with own pet. A friend of mine said me today: u will hate me forever for this dog for her is only a dog a burden. But She is also unable to educate her daughters to behave well in society. A caracter of someone is seen by his way towards animals.