(Not for) Free Lessons

Adopted a dog? Its behavior is problematic? Don't rush to give it away – invest in training lessons instead

Na’ama Rolnik, SPCA Adoption Counselor and dog trainer 

My name is Johnny and I am a young poodle, less than two years old. I know that I am good looking and attractive, I have a coat that doesn’t shed, am a small breed, am energetic and no one really has to be nervous in my company…so why am I so sad?

When I was two months old a family bought me – a single-parent, pampering and loving mother with two daughters aged 15 and 9. I came into my new home and was very happy. I was petted endlessly, had toys, and what I liked most of all was the bone that they gave me sometimes just because I was a bit of a pest…that was when I was just getting my new teeth and had to have something to chew!

During that time, everything seemed to me to be rosy: walks every few hours, snacks with the girls, leftovers from the meals, and best of all were the nights when, even though they had bought me my own bed, and given me a soft, comfy blanket, I preferred to sleep with Mom in her bed.< br>
But then the problems began. Once, when I jumped on them, they would laugh; when I bit their legs, they were happy; when someone came into the house I defended them with all my soul, scaring the stranger away with my barking. How could I have known that she just wanted to pet me that day, when I was chewing my bone on one of the couches, and I gave her a little bite so that in the future she wouldn’t touch my things…

Then came the muzzle. Suddenly they started to chase me around the house before we went out for a walk and tried to shut my mouth. I, who protect the child outside from any strange man or dog! They took me to be sterilized as a punishment. I didn’t really know what was going on there and it was pretty scary, but I got over that also and they took me home. All I wanted was for them to let me sleep in peace. I don’t like it when they wander around at night in the house, and I don’t want to be moved when I am asleep in bed just because they want to straighten the blanket.

I remember that day in the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when Mom said that she doesn’t know what to do with me anymore.

I wasn’t really sure if she meant to leave me there or just to get advice from the staff and take a few training lessons.

Johnny’s story is shared by many other dogs, and in my work as a dog trainer and adoption counselor in the SPCA I have come across many instances of people who have adopted dogs, are contending with their pets’ behavior problems and are sometimes even considering giving them away. It is important to understand that most of the problems can be solved with one training lesson (or a short course of lessons) or even by reading on the internet about training and establishing limits for your dog. It is so sad to see those dogs that people buy, sometimes for thousands of shekels, that, when things go wrong, are simply sold or given to the Society instead of their owners investing a little effort to read relevant information or a little money in training lessons (small sums in comparison with the cost of adoption and the ongoing expenses of rearing a dog). And one more point – when there are children involved, the message that they get from such a move is very problematic.

If you have adopted a dog – take responsibility and learn how to educate it and not only how to pamper it.