column By: Alec Sparks, Jessie Richards | November, 17
I never would have imagined that the subject of adopting a working dog from a rescue league would be such a distastefully polarizing issue with so many people. That’s just what I found on a popular online dog training forum, though: angry and cynical people venting and complaining about experiences and others providing sympathetic shoulders to cry on.
One common refrain was that some breed rescues would not adopt out to hunting homes. Whether you agree with their stance or not, clearly many people involved in rescues are nonhunters, and I think it’s safe to say many are seriously antihunting. Many of those I’ve spoken with have a very distorted view of what a working dog does, but fortunately many are aware of the “less than optimal” care and training that is still more common than they want to admit. Want to talk about the gun-shy pointer in a rescue with a bunch of birdshot in him? If a breed rescue refuses to adopt to a hunting home, so be it; I’m just glad they are rescuing dogs in the first place.
Another major issue was that the rescuers had the gall to actually charge for a dog; “Hell, they should be paying me!” is not an uncommon refrain. Many dogs arrive in rescues with pre-existing conditions, and I’m sure most dog owners realize the cost of just a routine wellness exam and heartworm/Lyme/rabies/other tests and vaccinations these days. I have a rescue foster now that has run up more than $1,700 in vet bills. “Heartworm positive,” you say – and a good number of dogs are – well, there is a quick thousand bucks gone. Most rescue groups are always beating the drum for donations, and all the rescued dogs I’ve seen have a lot more money in them than the modest adoption fee they ask. Honestly, if you really can’t afford the adoption fee, you shouldn’t own a dog either.
“I would have given the dog the best home ever, but I didn’t pass the ridiculous requirements.” Yeah, I know, those requirements can be pretty onerous, but who has ever said, “I think I’ll get a dog and give it a terrible home”? Yet most of these dogs come from awful situations, and if the groups go overboard doing their best so it doesn’t happen again, I can’t fault them. It’s not lost on me that sometimes adoptions can be so difficult, great homes are lost because the people just get fed up with the process. It’s not a perfect system; in many cases, it’s just caring volunteers trying to do the best for a lot of dogs coming from ugly situations. Notice that word volunteers? Yes, those people trying to help dogs are the ones some people complain about because things aren’t being done the way they want. Boo hoo! Cry me a river.
Those critics need to be told, “Rescues aren’t about you. Rescues are about helping dogs that ended up being dealt a crappy hand. If you truly care about dogs, you will put aside thinking about yourself, put up with some of the BS involved and help a dog.”
No question, some rescue dogs arrive with a lot of baggage. Be honest with a group and your ability to train/retrain or rehabilitate a difficult dog. Rescuing a dog only to leave it forgotten because you aren’t able to deal with its issues isn’t rescuing.
Don’t need another dog but feel you’re a skilled trainer? You like working with dogs? A novice professional looking to expand your skills? How about offering to foster/train a dog to hopefully make rehoming it easier? Of course, if you still train with the toe of your boot and think, “They’re just fine,” on a bed of year-old, urine-soaked straw, let’s not.
Don’t need a dog or in a situation where adoption and training aren’t possible? Maybe skip dinner out this weekend and throw a few bucks at the breed rescue organization of your choice.
And yes, there are some pretty sketchy “rescue” groups out there. But we don’t judge all hunters by the actions of a few, right? Same thing should apply with the way we look at the groups.
The point is, when we think about rescue dogs, we should think about the dogs and all they give us. Dogs will amazingly give us far more than we give them. They overlook our egos and anger, our indifference to them and our vanity. The difficult ones need more patience and skill than the easy ones but usually get the opposite.
Through good and bad, they look to us for care and our loving touch.
by Jessie Richards
Your puppy has now reached 6 months old, lost all of those puppy teeth, and the adult teeth have made an appearance. Time to teach the Hold command and give an introduction to force fetching.
There are two points I want to stress before getting started. One is simply the importance of teaching force fetch itself. Once this is instilled in a 6-month-old dog, it is instilled for life. The dog will always be able to retrieve a bird, or anything else you want him to retrieve, without damaging it.
In addition, patience is the key to teaching this. At first the dog might try to do everything but hold. Stay with it; it takes time. The dog will catch on! Always keep these sessions short at first and end on a good note.
For the Hold command, use either a bumper or a dowel. Use the dowel to start with if the dog is not yet bumper crazy, switching to a bumper later on. I usually have the dog wear a prong collar while teaching this so it is easier to control (you can use whichever training collar you prefer). Also, putting the dog on a table or tying it to something can help to get it out of its normal element and keep it focused while this new command is introduced.
To start, gently open the dog’s mouth and put the object inside. In the beginning stages, I like to help the dog hold the object by placing one hand under the chin. This helps the dog to understand what Hold means. It is important to only say the command once the object is in the dog’s mouth. If you are saying “Hold” without anything in the mouth, the dog is unable to understand what you want it to do. If the dog spits the object out, I apply light pressure to the lips outside of the canines and put the object back inside. Once the object is placed back inside, I release the pressure. Then I use the Drop command when it is time for the dog to release the object.
The next step is having the dog hold the bumper with distractions and obedience training. Have the dog hold the bumper while it walks on a leash and during other commands such as Here, Heel and Sit. The dog must learn that your command to do something else does not mean it can neglect the bumper, or in the future, the bird. You should be able to tap on the bumper without the dog’s dropping it. This is preparation for when the dog will be running through cover bumping into branches and bushes with a bird. It needs to be sure to hold things firmly without dropping them. This all needs to be learned before the Fetch command is even introduced.
Once your dog has this down, you are ready to teach Fetch. To do this, I use an ear pinch. Taking the dog’s ear and collar and applying pressure should cause it to open its mouth or sometimes give a yelp. When this happens, you place the bumper in its mouth and say “Fetch.” Once the dog has the bumper in its mouth, immediately release the pressure.
As the dog starts to understand Fetch, he will anticipate the pressure and try to either beat it or turn it off by reaching for the bumper on his own. Once the dog is reaching for the bumper on his own, slowly move it closer to the ground until he is picking it up off the ground.
Praise is important during this whole process. It is important to use it to reward effort but never to con the dog into doing something. For example, use praise when the dog is holding the bumper on its own or when it starts reaching for the bumper during force fetch.