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Inquisitive Canine: This Year, Resolve to Solve By Keeping Dogs Out of Shelters

There are things to consider before committing to being a pet owner

Dear Inquisitive Dog Parents,

The new year is officially here. For many, this means creating lists of resolutions with intentions of modifying one’s behavior. In honor of this tradition, my sidekick, Poncho, and I have decided to join in, talking about resolutions to help dogs stay in their homes and out of animal shelters. We encourage you to team up with us and add the dogs of your community — whether your own or someone else’s — to your list of personal achievements.

Solutions Start with Preparation

According to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy on Reasons for Relinquishment of Companion Animals in U.S. Animal Shelters, the top reasons dogs are sent to shelters have to do with living situations, cost, time, owners having personal problems and behavioral concerns of the dogs themselves.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest to this, as I commonly hear similar complaints. As for Poncho, he used to live in a shelter, so he knows firsthand the reasons he and his buddies landed there. Together, he and I have compiled the following tips to help dog lovers everywhere do what they can to reduce the shelter dog population:

» Location, Location, Location: According to the study, 17 percent of dogs were relinquished to shelters due to moving, landlords not allowing pets and “inadequate facilities.” We realize it’s difficult to foresee the future, but these numbers indicate that people need to investigate before they bring a dog into their homes. If you’re a homeowner, it’s best to match the home layout with the dog’s temperament. Consider age and energy level vs. size or breed. If you rent, know the current policies where you live. As for moving, determine if you can bring your dog to the new location. If not, have a back-up plan. Make arrangements with a friend or family member to house your dog, even if it’s just temporary, until you can find a place that allows canine residents.

» Basic Training: The ability to be a dog parent is a luxury and an honor. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that putting canine needs ahead of your own is necessary for developing a healthy and happy dog, both physically and mentally. Many behavioral issues that lead owners to relinquish dogs to shelters in the first place can be prevented through management and the use of simple training steps. Even a few minutes a day can buy years of being problem free. The Out of the Box Dog Training Game I developed is designed for busy dog parents who have mere minutes a day to teach the skills and behaviors they want to see from their dogs.

» It’s All About the Budget: Fortunately, the needs of our domestic dogs are, for the most part, pretty minimal. Water, food, shelter, an old tennis ball or stick, our attention and belly rubs are usually all they’ll ever really want. However, because of some laws, and the fact that we enjoy spoiling them and want to keep them around for as long as possible, health care, licensing, collars, leashes and all the extra goodies we want to provide tend to add up — especially health care. Determine if the expenses calculated over the lifetime of your dog is something you can afford. For those on a tighter budget, check your local area for low-cost health-care options. Fostering a shelter dog is another option to fulfill your Fido fix while keeping your list of financial responsibilities to a minimum.

» And Puppy Makes 3 ... or 4 ... or More: Adding another dog to the list of household pets can often lead to unforeseen circumstances, even resulting in sending him or her to a shelter — about 4 percent, according to the study — either because siblings don’t get along, you find out there really isn’t enough space or there were policies that went overlooked. Again, we encourage you to ask around and plan ahead.

» Ain’t Misbehavin’: A higher percentage of dogs turned in to a shelter are young, energetic and lacking in basic manners. Therefore, at the top of any pet parent’s list of responsibilities should be to help teach the dog the behaviors they want and to try to resolve any issues they’re experiencing. Attending a dog training class, joining a dog group and/or working with a certified trainer or veterinary behaviorist can help you achieve success in your overall behavior goals.

For additional info on helping keep dogs in homes and out of shelters, click here to check out the Dear Inquisitive Canine installment “Before You Adopt a Dog.”

An Ounce of Prevention

Pet overpopulation resulting in crowded shelters is a great concern in our community, and around the world. In the United States alone, millions (yes, millions) of dogs and cats are euthanized every year. But we can do something about it! Poncho and I say, “Resolve to solve.” Take the necessary steps to ensure you’re being a responsible dog parent — or dog-loving friend — by being inquisitive, planning ahead and taking care of your dog’s physical, mental and emotional needs. This way, dogs get to stay in loving homes and out of shelters.

Happy New Year!

On behalf of Poncho, myself and the Inquisitive Canine team, we wish you and your family a joyous and pawsitively reinforcing 2012. Your readership is always cherished and appreciated, and we thank you for continuing to be with us as we venture into the new year. And hey, we’re big fans of holiday photos — we invite you to join our Facebook community so you can share photos and all things dogs with us!

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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