3 Ways I’d Really Change Dog Adoptions

Golden Retriever

My family had to go through a lot of hoops to bring me home. It’s a good thing I’m worth it!

After recovering from being burned in effigy by readers offended by my Modest Puposal (BTW, if you found my post offensive, don’t read the Jonathan Swift piece that inspired it), I’d like to respond to the passionate comments.

First off, every comment was made by a fabulous person who really cares about dogs and wants their welfare. I’m so proud to be part of this community.

Most commenters suggested stricter requirements for having a dog—training, microchipping, home visits, spay or neuter, etc.

But Amy, of Training Toby, made a different point. If we make adoption too hard, aren’t we condemning more dogs to death or long, stressful lives in shelters? 

I agree with Amy. And I agree with everyone else.

What’s the answer? We need to build communities.

Putting Your Dog Online

I know I’m not the only person who spends hours every day writing and reading blogs because I love the community of dog lovers I’ve found here.

I’ve received so much encouragement, answers to my questions, and support in my life with Honey and my new experiences with foster dogs.

But there’s something missing.

I wish I could call Kristine to ask if Shiva could come over for a rough and tumble play date with Honey. I’d love to meet Mel at the dog park with Jasper, Lady, and Daisy and pick her brain about working with a fearful dog. And I’d be thrilled if my friends at Tales and Tails, The Daily Dog Blog, or I Still Want More Puppies could help me take some glamour shots of Chérie.

I’m also happy to share my small gifts with others who need safe “set ups” to work with fearful dogs, like Bella or Meadow, or could use a quick petsitter.

What I want, is for my virtual community to be actual. (Now you introverts, don’t get scared. I promise I’m not going to move next door just to pester you about dog stuff.)

Some of the friends I’ve made online are living with their first dog. Or their first dog as an adult. They’ve found something helpful online.

Could we take the best parts of the online dog lover’s community, make it live, and help first time dog people have a great experience? Here are my 3 suggestions:

1. Doggy Doulas? Mutt Mentors? 

If you don’t live in progressive, child-centric place like my town, you may have never heard of a doula. It’s from the Greek for a “woman who serves” but now describes a trained person who supports women through pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood.

Frankly, I think it’s a wonderful idea.

Could we have a less formal version to help people with their pets?

Perhaps when someone fills out an adoption application at a shelter or rescue, the form would ask if they’d like to be partnered with a mentor, or a DogMother, perhaps.

What would this person do? Well, it depends on the personalities involved. But here are a few possibilities:

  • Share information about local resources—the pet supply with smart staff, good groomers, trainers, dog parks, beautiful walks, vets.
  • Offer to foster their dog for brief, respite care (which could be fabulous for someone working with a challenging dog or puppy).
  • Attend a dog event together, like a fund-raiser or agility competition.
  • Take phone calls or emails to commiserate over set backs or celebrate successes.
  • Help with puppy socialization.

Is it just extroverted me who thinks that this could be really fun and helpful?

2. Hold a Puppy Party

Invite everyone who adopts an animal to a fun party a couple of weeks after the adoption. Tell them to bring pictures of their new pet in their home.

Hound Mix

To sniff out the family who will appreciate how wonderful I am, I’d better keep my nose to the ground.

Make it free. Have food and drinks (yes, you’d have to get local sponsors; no shelter has the budget to do this). Small shelters or rescues could partner together and share the effort.

Show a fun movie about all the things no one told you about having a dog (with an educational aspect, of course).

Have places for adopters to sign up for upcoming training classes or dog sport events. Perhaps a portion of the adoption fee could be refunded to everyone who completes a training class shortly after adopting (once again, find sponsors to fund this).

Have a demonstration by someone who adopted another shelter pet and has taught him all kinds of cool things. Demonstrate the magic of clicker training.

A little bit of fun helps the learning.

3. To Discover What Someone Needs, Ask Them

The other simple way to help new dog adopters successful is to ask them what they need. Once again, it should be right on the adoption form. “What do you most need to help you with your new pet?”

It’s amazing how rarely the helpers ask the people they’re trying to help what they need.

squat toilet in Rwanda

A rather elegant squat toilet in Rwanda.

Years ago I read about a development organization that tried to improve the sanitation in a rural Indian village. They built private toilets for every villager. When they came back a year later, nothing had changed. The people were still using the public latrine.

Someone finally got the smart idea to ask why the people didn’t use their personal toilets.

Apparently going to a public latrine was social. Everyone had to do it. You got caught up on all the gossip. It was the one time a day you could just shoot the shit breeze.

Once the development organization built a sanitary public facility (with no dividing walls), the villagers started using it.

And before you get too grossed out by this, think of how many cell phone conversations you’ve overheard in restroom stalls. It may be more universal than you think.

If someone asked you before you brought your first dog home what you needed, what would you say?

Not Everyone Wants a Fulfilled Dog

Shelters and rescues are doing innovative things everywhere to encourage responsible dog care.

Some people won’t listen no matter what.

They’ll have a dog they don’t take places because he pulls too much. They’ll under-exercise their little dog because they don’t understand she needs stimulation and time to run around. They’ll buy cheap dog food because, after all, it’s only a dog. And they’ll miss out on the very best relationship they can have.

But they’ll provide a comfortable home for a dog that’s far better than many have.

And who knows, perhaps that person will have a child who loves that dog. Who grows up wanting more for her own dog. And who finds a community of her own that teaches her new ways to love and respect dogs.

When you think about ensuring dog welfare from the human angle, do you have other ideas you’d suggest? Would you be a mutt mentor? Or could you use one?

 
photo credit: Sustainable sanitation via photo pin cc
 

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Comments

  1. I would definitely be a mentor although I would question (considering my training of Delilah) if I would actually be a benefit to someone. :-)

    I did an home visit for a rescue once and exchanged phone numbers with the new adopters, gave them my trainers information etc.

    Followed up with a couple of phone calls but they never returned mine. It’s like you said, some people no matter what you do, still want to do things their way.

    I thought your post yesterday was wonderful.

  2. I thought your puposal was great, and I’m glad to sparked so much debate.
    This post is brilliant, and full of many many good points. You’re right – people helping those with new dogs don’t really get asked what they need help specifically with. Some people can give great loving homes to dogs, but not fulfill them fully – this however isn’t an incredibly bad thing like you say.
    I can’t think of any more ideas than you’ve said yourself but I would definitely not mind being someone’s mutt mentor. I have experience with dogs myself, but not a puppy until now and so I occassionally ask for reassurance all is on track from my sister-in-law who is a fully qualified dog trainer who has raised several dogs from puppy age. It’s nice to have someone to ask what to do about teething first hand.

    • Teething was a big issue with Honey. I hadn’t had a puppy for 20 years and I spent that entire mouthy period in tears. I was so frustrated. I really used have used a mentor. :)

  3. BRILLIANT!! Thank you for offering a solution to what everyone sees as a problem and not just complaining about things. I have to tell you, some of the rescues I work with sort of do some of what you’re proposing. (Part of me wonders if people just don’t know this kind of stuff is available?)

    From one: “In addition, BRAT provides free lifetime post-adoption counseling to help deal with behavioral issues. Finally, we provide a free lifetime identification tag connected to our lost dog toll free number.” (They also have socials where adopted dogs and their new owners get together.)

    Another requires evidence of training within a certain period after adoption as well as regular updates from the adopters for the life of the dog. (These folks also have a yearly social for adopted dogs and their new families.)

    Save-a-Sato and other Sato rescue groups set up reunions where adopters not only get the opportunity to meet their dog’s rescuer and learn more about the dog’s history but they also get to meet other folks who have adopted Satos and ask questions of and share advice with others who understand the particulars of the ‘breed’.

    One thing that’s big around here these days are ‘dog events’. We have Paws in the Park, Bark in the Park, Woofstock, the Whisker Walk, Pet Rock and who knows how many more (those are just the ones in towns around me.) These are events where everyone can bring their dog and learn and ask questions whether it’s about nutrition or healthcare or behavior.

    So, for the record, this introvert LOVES the idea of being a mentor to a new dog owner. Not that Bella would be a great advocate for anyone but hey, knowing someone out there has a worse dog than you is sometimes all you’re looking for. (I kid. I kid. 😉

    • You’re so right that many groups are doing these kinds of things (BRAT’s program sounds great). But people often need to be told about things dozens of times before they sink in. I suspect social media will eventually play an even bigger role in connecting adopters to their local shelter or rescue.

      I love the idea of dog events. But they can be hard for people with reactive dogs. So meet ups for people without their dogs are important too.

    • It’s great that you know groups that do this, Leslie! I think it’s far from the norm in my area, unfortunately. I do know of one rescue that keeps a behaviorist on staff and will send a trainer out to help you, but many others have a “help line” that unfortunately turns out to be not so helpful. I often get the impression here that once the dog is yours, you’re on your own. I like the idea of having an ongoing dialogue instead.

  4. *digs out the ashes of your effigy, reconstructs.*

    I think more mentoring within the dog community would be a fantastic solution. I had to learn everything I know about dogs and dog training from books. Books that are often constructed to show how wonderful and perfect dogs could be.

    I remember being *crushed* at our first puppy class. I’d read all my Ian Dunbar, and I knew just how important it was to socialize our puppy. But the puppy was terrified. I was convinced that it was all my fault. It took me a half-dozen more books before I read one that said, “hey, some dogs are just anxious.” Same feeling about his “failure” to walk well on his leash, and his weird food aversions, his terror of being on the sidewalk, and so on. (I feel like, in the poor dog’s defense, I should now mention that he has never chewed inappropriately, he knows a slew of tricks, he is very clever, he plays a great game of fetch, and he never turns his excess terrier-mix-adolescent-dog energy to mischief.)

    Of course, ironically, his worst problem *is* entirely my own fault. We were in a new town when we got our very unplanned puppy, and we didn’t know a soul. We had one set of my husband’s work friends over, but they couldn’t come again. I wasn’t working, we didn’t know the neighbors. So he grew up without anyone ever being in the house except us. Which would maybe have been okay, if he weren’t a pathologically fearful dog, of the “get it before it can get me” variety. At this point I have serious doubts that we will ever be able to have people over peacefully.

    • One of the best things I’ve learned from my online community is the reminder that no matter how hard we try to do everything right, each dog is unique.

      I felt I did a very good job socializing Honey. We live on a busy street and introduced her to lots of people. But I messed up somewhere because she’s frightened of moving surfaces and falling objects and we’re having to make up the deficit now.

      And, she’s probably just a more sensitive dog than some.

      If you don’t visit Something Wagging very often, you may not know I’m working with a very shy Foster Dog right now. I’ll write about it more soon. But I’m already seeing good results so I suspect you can help you pup feel more comfortable with strangers even if he never becomes a social butterfly.

      One of the best books I ever read on the subject is Click to Calm by Emma Parsons. It contains a lot of the things our trainer has suggested for working with Cherie, our foster pup. I’d highly recommend it.

      • Oh, that book’s on my list. I’ll have to bump it to the top.

        I don’t expect that Silas will ever be a social butterfly in any event, because my husband and I are not social butterflies. Part of “his” training is me training myself not to tense up every time someone walks up in the park.

        And you inspired me to start the dog blog I’ve been mulling over!

        • Yay, Jessica. Go for it!

          I hear from my introverted and shy blogging friends that they find blogging a great way to connect with others about the dogs they love on their own terms.

          When you get a blog going, please stop by here on at Something Wagging on Facebook to share the news. And please ask if you need any advice. You’ll find a lot of helpful people here. :)

        • Yay! I look forward to your new blog. :)

  5. I love your doggy doula suggestion and have really thought about “puppy counseling” or something. Just to get these new owners through the initial hump!

    • The idea originally came to me when I learned about how guide dog puppy raisers give each other breaks. It gives the puppy a chance to socialize in a new household and the raiser gets a break.

      If it’s a good idea for puppy raisers, why can’t it work for regular old adopters? :)

  6. I adore the idea of a doggy doula. :) Great post!

  7. I love the mentoring idea! I always thought that training last for about the first 6 months of a puppy and then you were done. Boy, was I wrong!! And I also had huge expectations from my dog, not understanding how tricks or training could be a process. And I think another big one would be learning to love them even when they make a mess, chew your sneakers, or destroy your furniture…that can be a tough one.

    You’ve really been thinking about this and you’ve got some great ideas. I can’t believe how many solutions you’ve thought of. They are so great!!

  8. Those are some really fantastic suggestions. It would be spectacular if shelters could pair new adopters with a mentor or doula to help guide them during those first few months – and I’m sure it would help keep more dogs from being returned to shelters if new owners felt like they had support. Such an excellent and simple idea!

  9. Obviously, the mentor idea is fantastic but for some people it can be pretty scary to ask for help. I wrote at least a dozen emails to trainers before I ended up writing the one I sent. I picked up the phone and put it down again so many times.

    The shelter we adopted from actually did call us about three weeks after the adoption to check in and see how things were going. I’d already learned how fearful and reactive Shiva was and already started to doubt my abilities. Did I voice my concerns to the person who called? Of course not. I said everything was great and that we couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t make any sense to me now but I was terrified they were going to say our home wasn’t good enough after all and take our dog away. Even when I did get up the nerve to have a trainer come to our house I stayed up all night worrying the trainer was going to say we should give our dog to someone else who could do a better job.

    Would I have used a mentor? Probably not. Would I have gone to a party? Definitely not. Our adoption form did ask what information we wanted and I did check all the boxes, but it turned out not to be enough.

    Luckily we bumbled through it ourselves and found a solution. But it took a lot of courage for me to ask. I wonder how many never speak up at all.

    • About five seconds after I published my post, I wondered what my suggestions would mean for people who don’t feel comfortable with asking for help or working with a stranger. If you have suggestions, I hope you’ll share them.

      A really great DVD series or book might be a good start.

      Our SPCA gives a simple training DVD. But I’m thinking of something more along the lines of “what your dog wants you to know about him.”

      • The moment I hit the submit button I realized I hadn’t come up with any solutions of my own. One of the things that did help me was the mandatory obedience classes with adoption. Before we were allowed to bring Shiva home we had to show a receipt for classes held at one of the suggested facilities. There are probably ways to get around this if you want to and no one was there to make sure we went but as a rule follower I took this very seriously. The facility we chose ended up being excellent and put us on the right track to finding the trainer we did.
        But I know you don’t want to make adoption harder than it already is so this may not be something to promote.

        Books are definitely a great idea. I know Patricia McConnell has put out a few meant for this very thing. I wonder if there is a way to promote training without sounding remotely judgmental. I mean, I know shelters will obviously do all the can to keep a dog in a home rather than take it back but this was a real fear for me at the time. Maybe if they made it more obvious that dog training can be challenging and that it is totally okay if you don’t fall in love with your dog right away but that things can get better.

        • Maybe we need to stop calling it training and start calling it “relationship building.” I also like hearing classes called “manners” classes because they emphasize that we’re just trying to help dogs figure out how to fit into our world.

          Thanks for the added ideas, Kristine.

  10. Okay, I think I’ve recovered enough from your last post to dive into this one.

    You have some great ideas here. I especially love the doggy doula. There is a similar “lady” in Asia who helps a woman through her first few months post-childbirth, right down to cleaning and cooking special foods for recovery. (Wish I could remember what she’s called.) It takes a village to raise a child, why not a dog? There’s no doubt we could have used a doula (or a team of them) when we first got Georgia and were housebound for more than a year!

    Failing a personal doula, I’ve found having a supportive dog community a MUST, especially when the dog is difficult and has issues. If all one gets are glares and curses when Fido is misbehaving, chances are he’ll become less and less socialised, and we all know how that story often ends. Pound puppy follow up parties would be fantastic, but daily community playtime and meetups would be even better.

    Regarding the question of whether making adoption too hard would be condemning dogs to a long shelter life or death… I guess the answer is yes. But only in the short term. In the long, one hopes that this sort of drastic action will make (wouldbe) dogowners more informed and ready for the ups and downs and responsibilities of dog ownership, thus ultimately reducing the number of abandoned and returned dogs. That would be da bomb, wouldn’t it?

    That’s another 2 cents for the day! BTW, I’ve NEVER seen a squat toilet like that. The person must have very good aim.

  11. LOVE this post! Missed the other – went back to read it; agree on principle and satirically but lately found a puppy made a much better first dog for an autistic boy than any of my well trained (ahem) adult dogs.
    1. I would love to be a mentor/doula.
    2. Have been planning a weekly/monthly dog walk ala Two Pitties in the City for a long time; would be a great way to socialize and help fearful dogs since the dogs’ don’t walk together; there is deliberate space :).
    3. I think all shelters/rescues need to do better education and follow-up. My current plan is to call after one month, 6 months and then yearly.
    Our local super pet product store has lots of events to which people can bring their dogs and meet up, learn from others. She even has a trainer twice a month on Saturday for two hours for free for questions, etc.
    Call me, call me – you can live next door; I have free ear plugs available!

  12. I really loved this post Pamela. I love the idea of a community of dog people helping other dog owners. I try to share my fearful dog experience with anyone who asks. There are so many more resources out there now for fearful dog owners, but not everyone is aware of them.

    I am hoping to be performing somewhat of a doggie douhla role as I take on more with my rescue group. I will be following up with foster parents and their pups. I am so looking forward to it. One of the things I loved doing was helping my clients better understand how to work with their dogs. Sometimes just demonstrating that their dog can indeed learn new things and learn to walk nice on a leash was enough to get them motivated to ask for info and to learn more.

  13. Mentors work! lol Both of the Greyhound adoption groups we worked for used them, and I was one for a long time. We contacted the people who adopted our fosters, either through e-mail or phone calls (depending on what was most comfortable for them) and listened for signs of things we should talk to them about. Our first adoption group was very good about contacting us when we were new adopters, too. And I love that they have a reunion every year. It’s fun to see how far the dogs have come since they’ve gone to homes! It’s also another good way to stay in contact with adopters and offer support if it’s needed.

  14. You have some fantastic ideas (as usual!). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all meet up at the local dog park when we needed each other? Anyway, I have to say that the rescue group we worked with was amazing. As we tried to adopt Moses, they helped us with the transition, lent us an extra large crate for Moses, fielded many phone calls and emails for advice, and even sent a trainer over to help us. We felt very supported. And, even as experienced dog people, we needed that support!

    • Peggy, your group sounds amazing to me. The way they handled the Moses situation was fantastic, and I think that more groups should follow that model (volunteers and personnel permitting, of course – I know many have limited resources). They worked with you through the transition, tried to help when the fit really just wasn’t right with Kelly, and then helped you find a pup who would be the right fit. I thought that was just a fantastic way to handle it.

      I especially like the idea of a trial period, particularly when there is another dog already in the house. Dogs may seem fine in an initial meeting at the shelter – but as I learned the hard way, that does not always translate to a good fit once you get them home.

      I think there’s often the perception that the adopter is just not trying hard enough or that somehow the adopter is failing if they show any doubts… I think that’s a dangerous message for groups to communicate (even unintentionally) to their adopters. I had a friend who adopted a second dog that ended up getting into a serious fight with her current dog. The rescue group was not even remotely sympathetic and made my friend feel terrible as if it was her fault that the dogs were at each others’ throats. Sadly, I think it turned her off of rescue altogether, and I think that’s the risk that groups take when they choose judgment over support – the next time that person decides to get an animal, they may not choose rescue if the first experience was that unpleasant.

      • I agree with Pup Fan that your rescue, Peggy, gave you amazing support. They really seemed to have the best interests of Moses, Kelly, and you in mind.

        I agree also with Pup Fan’s suggestion of a trial period. I’ve read it described as “foster to adopt” which sounds better than a trial period.

        My sister and her husband have been thinking of adopting a dog for years. They volunteer at their local shelter. But they’re afraid of getting in over their heads. I think they’d do great with a foster to adopt program that gives them time to settle into the notion of being dog people after years of being guinea pig and cat people. :)

        • Foster to adopt sounds way better than trial period. It’s all about branding. 😉

          • The place we got Rita from does “foster to adopt.” We took her home as “fosters” for 2 weeks. Then they came to our house to do a home inspection. We were already in love w/ her the afternoon we brought her home and we lucked out with her being pretty mellow/already well trained, but I liked their idea of the two week foster. If someone is in over their head, that check in at two weeks could be really helpful in either deciding it’s not the right fit or giving pointers/suggesting trainers, etc. to help everything work out.

  15. I think a mentor system is a great idea. There’s so much focus on what someone knows, but none of us know everything. Someone who is willing to learn and put time and energy into it can make a good home for a dog.

  16. doggy doula just classic. Great post and lively discussion. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  17. I think you have good ideas. The one thing I noticed about rescues, once you get the animal, you never hear from them again. At least this was the case with our kitty. They never did one follow-up call except to ask for donations. I found that odd.

    But generally I would like to see adoptions made easier, not harder. A home is a better place for a dog or a cat than a shelter any day. Unfortunately, shelter animals are becoming big business. (I am not talking about all local shelters but some and for sure the national organizations.)

    • I agree with your first observation. When I adopted Bella, I never heard from the rescue group again after they dropped her off. Not one follow-up call or query about how she was doing. (Also, they said they were coming for a home visit, but then they brought Bella with them and just left her with us after a cursory glance around our apartment. It was… unexpected, to say the least.)

      My situation with Tavish has been a bit different, but I think that’s only because I volunteer there and have gotten questions from one other volunteer friend about how he was doing. It wasn’t really in any sort of official capacity, however, and I never received any sort of official follow-up call from the shelter. I think that a follow-up call to check in and at least give the adopter the opportunity to ask questions or for resources would be helpful.

  18. Fantastic post, Pamela. (Also, I had no idea your previous one would inspire such ire!)

    I like the idea of a doggy mentor, and I wish that the groups in my area did something like that. I do think it would be important for the rescue group or shelter to make sure that they find caring, non-judgmental people for those roles. Not all volunteers would be suited for that sort of task. (Perhaps they could tap the dog blogging community? Honestly, those are some of the nicest, least judgmental people I’ve ever met.) The second those mentors start to seem judgy, then adopters will feel too ashamed to call them for help.

    I have called a shelter advice line for help before (and it took a lot for me to do so) – unfortunately, I felt that the advice I received was not all that helpful and the general tone was “well, just give it time.” No matter how hard I tried to communicate my distress, the person on the other end of the line downplayed it. I realize that sometimes things really aren’t a big deal, but it would have been more helpful if the person on the phone was really listening to what I had to say and realizing that I was trying to send out an SOS because I felt like I was sinking.

    As with many things in life, it’s comes down to improving communication and finding the best way to relate to people – not always an easy task, unfortunately. (Is my Communication major showing? I’m rather obsessed with how people interact with each other and choosing the best way to approach people.)

    On a related note, you are more than welcome to move next door. I promise that I’m working to make sure that Tavish does not become an obnoxious little dog. (Luckily, he’s already past his pesky adolescence.) I’m sure that he and Bella would love to play with Honey. (In my dream world, all of my favorite blogger friends live within walking distance.)

    • Such good points about how such a volunteer would need to be an accepting and helpful person. In thinking about this, I’ve thought one could develop a training program for mentors so they could learn some good communication skills and be sure to pass on information that’s accurate.

      The other issue is that many people become knowledgeable about dogs because they feel more comfortable with them than with people. Some of the best mentors who can help your dogs might not be too helpful to you. :)

      There’s nothing more discouraging than reaching out for help and not feeling heard. I’m glad you were able to make it through your less-than-helpful counsel.

      • I love the idea of a training program for mentors – there’s a skill to being an effective mentor, making yourself approachable yet knowledgeable. It’s a fine line to walk – the person has to feel comfortable enough to come to you with any question, even the “stupid” ones, but also feel that you can actually help them. (Can you tell I’ve been a mentor many times in my life? Just never a doggie one…)

        And I think that you’re so right about the people who may know the most helpful for the dogs may not be the ones who have the easiest time relating to the people involved. That would make the training program even more essential.

  19. The surest way to start an argument is to express an opinion. What you are doing is challenging us to think about adoption differently and I think it is incredibly helpful. Brava!

  20. Great post!

    I fully intend to offer classes very similar to what is mentioned here once I am officially a dog trainer. A sort of Adopting a Dog 101, about how to prepare and maintain, etc. And I hope that I can become the somewhat-official trainer of the rescue we got Desmond from (that I’m still very much in touch with), so they can encourage adopters to make me their next call after the vet. :-) I would offer a discounted package for them and everything.

    • I love the Adopting a Dog 101 class. I’d take it!

      Our trainer also has a service where he’ll accompany a family to a shelter or rescue to help them evaluate a dog to make sure they find a good fit for everyone. I thought that was a very interesting service and one I would definitely take advantage of. Perhaps that might be a side offering for you as well?

      You have a lot going on in your life, don’t you? You’re a trainer in training and your dog is on his way to becoming a stuffed animal (hopefully)! It’s a big year for you!

  21. We have several different friends that have adopted a puppy and then used us to bounce questions off of (we are in NO way experts, but we tell them what we tried and techniques that we have read about). I think the main thing is to let adopters know that they are going to have questions and that they shouldn’t feel bad about asking them and reaching out for help when they need it. I love the idea of a “foster to adopt” and I often suggest that people foster a dog before they actually adopt if they are on the fence or don’t understand the commitment that it takes. An Adopting 101 class would be great too! It sounds like it would also be a great on-line course to offer :)

  22. Yes, yes, and yes. I think things like this are slowly coming to fruition in more places, but as another commenter mentioned, a lot of adopters may not remember or even realize that they are available. A lot of people are sadly still in the mentality that providing food, water, and shots are all they have to do for their pets…I know when I was a kid, socialization for a dog was something my parents had never heard of, and even anything other than Wal-mart dog food was out of the question because it was “too expensive to spend on a *dog*.” I found other dog mentors, thanks in most part to the winsome and gregarious nature of my dog, but not everyone is so lucky.

  23. I had a very long reply about mine and C’s dream planned dog community, but I decided that it would make a better post over on my blog. :-)
    But I do agree, community is key.

  24. What I have learned is that I really have no control over what other people do. So while in My perfect world everyone would treat their dogs the way I would like them treated, this world isn’t that way, and so I really have no control over what you or anyone else does.

    What I DO have control over is in speaking my mind, and in doing my part to try to influence others to be more responsible. I also have control over reporting people who abuse or neglect animals to authorities. Other than that, if you want to trim the coat of your long-haired dog, or walk him on a retractable leash, or feed him store-brand dog food, then that’s on you and your dog. If you ask me (or read my blog), I’m going to tell you why I don’t care for that (and why the leash is unsafe), but you’re not breaking any laws.

    I am afraid that some people take the same license with animals as certain religious sects do with proselytizing. I don’t care for either, and I feel in both cases, more people are turned off than on.

    • Such a great comparison with religious proselytizing. Especially since the most effective missionaries are not those who argue people into believing but who make people feel part of a community.

      Gee, Rumpy, I guess dogs really are smarter than humans. :)

  25. First, I did not realize you got flamed for your other post. I had read it and thought it was cute, and I did not think you were 100% serious – but I certainly understood the point you were making. Sorry to hear others were offended by it.

    I have to say this post is full of really good ideas, and as much as I am an advocate for shelter dogs, I think adopting from rescue groups or purchasing from a reputable breeder is often the best way to go for a first time dog owner. Rescue groups and reputable breeders often make themselves available for the very things you state, especially mentoring, as I’ve experienced it myself.

    Two of my dog came with mentors in the form of their former foster moms, (Meadow and Harley), and both of them were invaluable in helping us figure out how to handle certain situations that we were not equipped for. Plus Meadow’s foster mom watched her for us when we went away and we’re too nervous to leave her with anyone else.

    I try to pay that forward by helping others, and have even had others email me for advice which I’ll gladly give – but I won’t offer advice anymore without being asked, because (1) Some people take offense to advice and (2) When they don’t follow I advice and things go wrong, I often find myself frustrated. It’s happened several times. :-(

  26. Great post and equally awesome comments, Pamela. I think it needs to go viral. So much sound advice and wisdom that should be taken on board by all manner of dog adoption/rescue whatever organisations.

    I got Beryl on a Foster to Adopt programme to make sure she and Frankie were compatible.