10-25-2007 07:02 AM
I have been on the road shooting episodes for the fourth season of DOG WHISPERER (we are doing 35 new episodes - it's exhausting!) so I have not been able to check back on this board for several days. Now that I'm back, I thank you for all the positive comments and am thrilled you are enjoying the new book, Be the Pack Leader (and the first one, Cesar's Way !).
In checking the boards, I would like to answer everyone's questions but of course there isn't time (and I can't diagnose dogs over the internet). However there was one particular question that really touched my heart and I thought I would share my response here as well as on the specific message board. The post was from "Chaser."
You ask a complex question that touches my heart:
I guess I would ask - is it preferable to rescue a dog who may not get the exercise necessary to live the fullest life or is that, do you think, like not having a life at all? I'm sure I don't speak only for myself when I mention the heartbreak of seeing so many dogs euthanized or spending the majority of their life in a shelter, and I have already heard from folks who exceed me in pack count! I really feel that so many people invest in buying a dog that it is hard to get many people to want to invest the time in a potentially problem sort of dog, that those of us who at least have a willingness to do so feel the need to double and triple up on our responsibility to these dogs.
I know this is a complex issue with no easy solution, and I really appreciate what you have done to work with those that others have thrown away. I am very excited about your new Foundation and the hope that might bring to rescue groups and those who need help to chip away at the problem.
I see many people on your show who have one dog that causes a problem, but do you have any advice for those of us who have packs to manage? I guess I want you to tell me I'm not a terrible owner and to just relax :-), but I will listen to whatever advice you have.
To me, life would be empty without a pack of dogs. I grew up with packs of dogs, and at the Center I currently keep up to fifty dogs at one time. I think dogs benefit from being with other dogs; they fulfill each other in ways that we never could fulfill them. There is nothing as powerful as being with your own kind. But even I have to turn a dog down once in a while; for example, when I am traveling to shoot episodes of Dog Whisperer and will be gone for long periods of time. When I will not be around personally to know the dogs (especially those with issues) are getting the proper care, I cannot, for example, take in a very aggressive dog. It could be very dangerous to the whole pack.
There are so many dogs out there that need good homes. If an owner is capable of adopting more than one dog, especially dogs that otherwise would have an appointment to die, I commend them. I know how difficult it is to walk into a shelter and see all those endearing faces, especially knowing that many of them may not survive if they are not adopted. However, we need to be realistic. No one of us have the ability to end the problem of homeless and stray dogs in this country (or in countries like Mexico, where the problem is even worse). I always say, you have to start with one dog at a time. If you are realistically able to take in more dogs, great. Then add more dogs. But I don't recommend adding more dogs than you can properly care for.
Dogs, like all creatures that are of Mother Nature, are all about balance. Their lives don't have to be perfect, but they need certain basic things in order to feel secure. They need exercise, discipline and affection. They need a stable pack and a strong pack leader. So when you add new dogs, ask yourself, "Am I doing what is good for the whole pack?" To me, that pack would include you, your spouse, and your children as well as the rest of the dogs in your home. If you rescue ten dogs but have no time for your husband or wife, that is not balance. If you are saving dogs lives but your children can't invite friends over because of potentially dangerous or hyperactive dogs, that is not balance. I don't believe we can help Mother Nature without trying to provide balance for everyone in our world. If you are adding dogs because you feel sorry for them, but your whole pack - and your life - is not in harmony, to me, that is a problem.
I totally understand the desire to help the world by helping dogs - that is what my wife and my Foundation is all about. But each of us can only do what we can do. Perhaps there are other ways you can help dogs without making your lives unmanageable. Far too many people have animals that are not spayed or neutered. Educating people on the population and health benefits of spaying and neutering their pets is one way you could help. Volunteering your services at a Pet Adoption Fair or a shelter is another way. If you can afford it, donating money to organizations that help dogs is one more way to help. You can even help people simply by being a good Pack Leader, responsible dog owner, and role model. Many of my clients say that people on the street or at the dog park have noticed how well behaved their dogs are, and that has motivated them to take better care of their dogs. If we create more good Pack Leaders in the world, then more dogs can be adopted.
In short, when bringing any animal into your home, ask yourself, "Am I doing this for the good of the whole pack?" And don't take the rescue of all dogs in the world onto your own shoulders, as much as you would like to. Think creatively about other ways to help, and instead make a balanced life for your current dogs and your own family. When we begin by creating harmony in our own lives, there is a ripple effect for the whole world around us.
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10-25-2007 11:11 AM
I agree with you that dogs benefit from having other dogs around. That was one reason why we decided to get two dogs. I feel a dog should have a partner that shares it's ways and language and by having a partner it helps relieve stresses. Stress of being home alone, going out to play together, being a pack. It is amazing how they communicate without a sound they just read eachother. For me, watching them has taught me how to better communciate with them. I think if people just did the right thing by thier dogs we would have less dogs to rescue. It is people that are the problem taking on dogs without thought to the responsiblity of the task.
10-25-2007 12:16 PM
You're ability to put difficult and complex decisions into thoughtful perspective is truly admirable. I find your advice to be very helpful and incredibly accurate. I believe you're correct in that owners of companion animals need to think about the entire pack when deciding to introduce a new animal into the home. We need to consider all of the possible effects that will result: positive and negative. I wish the ways that I currently help animals could include bringing more home, but ultimately I know that the three I've rescued are the happiest they can be and we have a great dynamic.
Our U.S. culture is based on the individual, but this is not the culture of dogs. I do find myself struggling with the disparities between these two cultures, especially when dealing with minor problem behaviors with my lab/border collie mix. What I've learned from your methods is that I need to think like he thinks; he's not going to think like I think. When I put myself in his "place" his behavior makes sense. I've learned that all the obedience training in the world doesn't work if I don't provide exercise, discipline, and affection while being the pack leader. It's a role I'm working on and I think it's going to produce wonderful results in our pack.
Thanks so much for all you do!