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Posted on 12/05/2017


On a popular TV dog rescue show, I was saddened to see a dog featured that was probably condemned from the outset to never successfully finding a stable and happy home (I hope I’m proven wrong) because of the way it was being represented to potential owners. The sad thing was that the person responsible for probable outcome genuinely wanted to find a loving home for an abandoned dog they obviously deeply cared for. 

The problem was that this puppy was describe by the representative from the rescue organisation,  as 'needing an experienced home, as he is very active, needs lots of exercise and that he is constantly 'mouthing' ,which is typical of the breed'. At this point I wanted to scream. 

How often is the ridiculous excuse made that certain behavioural issues are unavoidable because of breed type? This seems to have become accepted thinking amongst a very large number of dog owners/carers all over the world but more often than not, it’s just an excuse that relieves an owner of taking the trouble to try and rectify a behavioural issue, an issue that is obviously a manifestation of some degree of stress for the dog and can’t be much fun for the owner either.

 The breed “type” of a dog is irrelevant to its behaviour, just as the country you or I are born in does not dictate whether or not we suffer from behavioural disorders. We all know that national and racial human stereotypes are a manufactured convenience; they are just used to make it easier to hate or laugh at other who aren’t “like us”, so why do we accept breed stereotypes for dogs?

As the previously mentioned rescue organisation has accepted the breed myth, no one there will even attempt to help this young dog with his mouthing problem and that’s not fair on the dog, particularly as the issue is easily resolved. The simple way to resolve the habit of mouthing is to react by immediately stopping all contact with the puppy/dog, say nothing, make no eye contact and walk away. If the dog follows you then create a barrier between you, either you go out of the room and close the dog or put the dog in another area. The important thing here is to isolate the dog.

Once the dog stops reacting to the 'excitement', calms down and realises that it is alone it will then have to work out how to get accepted back to the family (pack). Once the dog is calm then we can reunite with the dog, without speaking to it initially as it is essential to time the “greeting” properly, once the dog is relaxed then we can invite contact; on our terms and not the dog's. If the dog repeats the mouthing then we repeat the consequence of that action, the isolation and we keep repeating this until the dog works out for itself that the 'mouthing' is causing it to be isolated and believe me; it will. 

The joy of this approach (AB) is that the dog learns the most valuable lesson of life, which is to control its own behaviour in order to get what it wants or needs; so simple and so effective.

One last point though about breed stereotypes: The dog mentioned appeared to be the result of a cross breeding… so which breed exactly was being blamed? 

Jan Fennell