Dog Training & Behaviour Blog

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    Are Some Rescues Being Responsible, Or Overly Emotional To The Detriment Of The Dog & Prospective Owners?


    Overall, dog rescues do an incredible job helping save the lives of so many dogs that have been abandoned, or taken off the streets, or as here in Vietnam, saved from the meat markets. These rescues work tirelessly for little to no financial gain, to try and help these dogs find loving homes. They do this job for no other reason than a deep love for dogs.  For this I commend them.

    The problem we have though is that many rescues believe every dog should be saved or adopted out, no matter its psychological or behavioural state. The belief is, by many rescues, all dogs must be saved and homes found for, and even promote them self as a "no kill rescue". This is where the problem lays within so many dog rescues, and sadly I have found this to be particularly true in Vietnam. Rescues need to accept that not every dog should be adopted out, at least until the dog has been assessed as suitable for adoption by a professional, and if required, had some major behaviour modification carried out by a professional behaviour specialist, with years of experience and knowledge of dog behaviour, instincts, drives, and dog and human relationships. And even more importantly, being honest with them self and acknowledging that some dogs should never go into homes. Sadly, way too many dogs are going to homes that shouldn't be!

    I come across or hear of so many dogs with deeply ingrained underlying and even unpredictable aggression issues being placed into homes. Again, I have found this to be a major issue here in Vietnam. I've even come across dog owners that adopted a dog, and were never informed of unpredictable aggression issues the dog has, or the potential for their dog to develop aggression issues due to its current psychological state. All the new owner was told is give the dog lots of love, and the dog will settle in with the family. Or dogs with extreme fear issues going into homes, and then not dealt with correctly, eventually leading to major aggression issues once the dog settles into its new environment.

    The issue we have with the emotive based 'save ALL dogs' mantra, or 'no kill rescue', is that these rescues can fall into the trap of homing dogs at any cost, no matter the dogs issues, or little consideration for the welfare of the family adopting the dog. Rescues need to accept they need to be responsible in regards to dogs they are adopting out to homes, by being upfront and honest about ALL of the dogs psychological and behavioural issues before the dog is taken in by the new prospective owners, and therefore allowing the family to make an informed decision about whether this particular dog is suitable for their family or not. Also many rescues believe they understand dog behaviour, when in fact they have little knowledge, and instead sprout lots of emotive rhetoric to potential dog owners, like positive only training, all your dog needs is lots of love and affection, all dogs should be walked on harnesses, etc, etc, without even considering the current psychological or behavioural state of the dog, nor understanding how to deal with them. They tend to just wrap dogs in cotton wool.  Many rescues tend to use a lot of emotive rhetoric to convince prospective dog owners they know what they are talking about, when in fact doing nothing more than fuelling prospective dog owners emotions to feel sorry for the dog, because of its perceived sad and abusive past, and that this dog no matter its underlying issues given lots of love and affection by your family will become a stable loving member of the family, when in some cases this will never be the reality at all. Many rescues use emotive talk to adopt a dog out without really understanding or just plain ignoring the potential negative aspects of any underlying issues the dog may have, or in some cases, sadly, not being open and discussing with the potential owners any underlying dangerous or distressed psychological states or behaviour so the dog is guaranteed a new home. Or understand the potential for the dog to develop dangerous behaviour that could possibly surface over time, if the dog is not offered the right social environment, training and behaviour modification.

    Sadly, there are those dogs that just cannot be saved, and in actual fact are so distressed with deeply ingrained psychological issues that it would be more humane to put the poor dog to sleep rather than suffering a life of torment and misery. But for whatever reason, many rescues have allowed human emotions to override what is best for a particular dog. Their mantra is, "we must save all dogs and find them all loving homes, that's the humane thing to do!... But is it really humane to have dogs living in a state of perpetual distress and misery, just to satisfy human emotions?

    Most families don't have the experience or knowledge on how to deal with dogs that have underlying issues such as extreme anxiety, aggression or deeply ingrained fears, and should not be placed in a position to deal with them, because a rescue was not initially open, upfront, and brutally honest with the potential owners, because saving the dog was the 'humane' thing to do, and emotionally more important than the new owners (or the dogs) well-being and safety. 

    A family's safety and well-being should always be a dog rescues number one priority, above and beyond anything else. Also if the new owner accepts the dog, does the family have the resources, capability, experience, and knowledge to deal with dogs with these types of deeply ingrained issues? Secondly, how can we best help the dog? Is the dog so deeply affected psychologically that they must make the hard decision on whether its more humane for the dog to be put to sleep no matter how difficult or deeply emotional it is for them to make that decision? Thankfully though, this type of decision is rare, however it must never be discounted as the most appropriate and humane option, for a very small number of dogs taken in by rescues. 

    Since being in Vietnam, for over a year now, I have found there is definitely a lack of education on dog ownership and behaviour, but more a focus on the emotional, what I call the "furbaby syndrome". Where its all about love and affection and little to no understanding of a dogs true nature. My aim whilst in Vietnam is to help educate as many dog owners, rescues, and the general public on dog behaviour, instincts and drives, as possible. To educate people on what their dog really needs and is looking for from its owner, and not gloss over it all with emotional rhetoric, just because I have a deep love of dogs. 

    Once we start acknowledging a dogs true nature, and offer it the social environment it requires to be a psychologically stable, sound and well balanced dog, only then can we offer the dog what it requires to live harmoniously with its human family and maintain a stable psychological state of being. I have lost count how many homes I have been in (and dogs recently brought home from a rescue), and the owner believing they have a happy overly excited dog, and sadly, all I observed was a dog that is distressed with issues like anxiety. Or dog owners not understanding how to help their dog work through fears and aggression issues, believing that lots of love and comforting will help their dog, after all that's what their trusted rescue told them would help. Most dog owners are doing this for years, and still believing that eventually it will work, when in actual fact are quite possibly making the issues even worse for their dog. If our dogs could actually talk to us, I am sure most dog owners would be shocked. When we allow emotion to override the true nature of dogs, then we are not helping our dogs with these deeply ingrained issues, but only satisfying our own emotional needs to the detriment of the dog. We need to understand, dogs don't live by human values and desires, and so we should stop projecting them on to our dogs. 

    Many rescues need to take a step back, look in the mirror, and be honest with them self, and asking, "are we doing what's best for this particular dog, or have we become so emotionally invested that we have become blinded to the dogs true nature, and what is best for this particular dog. Are we also being honest with prospective dog owners looking to adopt, or is the emotional need to adopt all dogs driving us to hide, or not be upfront, or be totally honest with a prospective family about the dogs underlying issues, or issues that could quite possibly develop as the dog settles into its new home? Or are we offering them a dog knowing full well that the family doesn't have the capability, resources, experience or knowledge to take on this particular dog with these types of issues? Also is this dog a safety or well-being issue for the family, and is the dog so psychologically damaged that making it live a life of misery or torment is not the humane thing to do, because our decision making is based on being too emotionally invested in saving all dogs, and therefore blinded to the true psychological state of the dog.

    I have also found and come across, that some rescues tend to be more lenient and dismissive of smaller breeds with deeply ingrained issues, such as aggression.. as after all, how much damage can a small dog do? They are, whether intentionally or not, discounting the emotional distress the dog is actually finding itself in, just so it can be in a loving home. No matter the size or breed of a dog, no dog with underlying (or potential) aggression issues should be adopted out, until these behaviours have been successfully modified. Remember, aggression is triggered due to an emotional state, and this needs to be understood, for the psychological well-being of the dog.

    We would all love to save every single dog in the world, but sadly this can never be the case. There are always going to be dogs that the most humane, and in some cases, the safest thing to do is put the poor dog to sleep. Sadly a life of perpetual misery or deep psychological damage is not a life worth living for some dogs, and we as intelligent and emotional humans should understand and accept this, no matter how much a decision such as this may upset us.

    Dogs with the psychological and behavioural issues outlined above should of course be given every possible chance to live and find loving homes. However, many of these dogs need professional help from professionals with years of experience and an in-depth knowledge of dog behaviour and instincts, and a deep understanding of human and dog relationships, before allowing the dog to go into family homes, or at the very least, as soon as the dog is in its new home, and not after these behaviours have strengthened or become out of control, or become a danger to the well-being and safety of the family, or to the detriment of the dogs own psychological health and well-being. Cease basing human and dog relationships on emotive human reasoning, because some believe all dogs, no matter their issues, must be saved, and should be wrapped up in cotton wool, because not doing so goes against our overly emotional and anthropomorphic views.

    If you live in Saigon, Hanoi, or any location in Vietnam, I have services to help you and your dog. Please look through my website to find a service most beneficial for you. If you are considering adopting a particular dog, maybe consider having its behaviour assessed first, before committing to the adoption.

    For dog owners located in Saigon, I offer in-home behavioural consultations, Group Classes and Puppy Training For other areas throughout Vietnam, I offer live zoom consultations.

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