A Modest Puposal

A Modest Puposal for Preventing Ignorant Dog Owners From Being a Burden on Animal Shelters, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Leave me alone!

The Problem: Obnoxious Little Dogs

You’ve seen them.

The little dogs on long leashes who garotte your ankles. The fashion accessories who take a nip when you reach into their matching bag to have a pet. And my nemesis, the yappy Yorkshire Terrier who comes flying out his doggy door to bark a blue streak at everyone walking by his yard.

What is to be done? Will anyone save us from the small dog menace?

The Problem: Hyperactive Adolescent Dogs

The shelters are full of them. Dogs who range from six months to two years old, have no manners, and no lack of energy.

They bounce as if they have springs for legs. All the time barking, barking, barking.

All aboard the Crazy Train.

They might be cute. If they ever settle down enough for you to get a good look at them. But they’re nowhere near as cute as they were when some ignorant person decided they just had to get a puppy.

How can we end the glut of ill-mannered adolescent dogs waiting for homes?

The Solution

I have a simple solution that will rid us of obnoxious little dogs and hyperactive adolescents forever.

If you want it, you can’t have it.

Let me explain: any first time dog owner who wants a small dog, or a puppy, cannot have one.

Make it a law.

A woman who calls a breeder or, Dog forbid, visits a pet store asking for a Chihuahua or Maltese will be given an Irish Wolfhound or a Mastiff. The first time they need their dog to get off their foot, they’ll start searching for in-home dog trainers.

The family who can’t resist their kid’s pleas for a puppy will be given a four year old dog—already house trained and taught manners by an experienced dog person who is allowed to raise puppies for rehoming. They’ll earn their dog care chops on a well-socialized dog given the best start in life, instead of ruining a perfectly nice puppy.

No more obnoxious little dogs. No more no-longer-cute adolescents dumped for behavior problems.

Now, how to implement it.

What Modest Puposals would you make to empty out shelters and better the lives of animals?

photo credit: stevegatto2 via photo pin ccphoto credit: IcK9s [M. H. Stephens] via photo pin cc

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  1. Is there something in the water? This is the 3rd post I’m reading this week about yappy little dogs, sometimes on long leashes [god bless all the good little dogs on short leashes and their responsible owners of course]. And where does that link go to? Are you kidding?! BWAH HAHA!!!! ;p

  2. I know this is satire, but I will be honest it still offends me and Im quite surprised and disapointed to find find it on a blog that I really enjoy.

    I have met plenty of large dogs who were rude and out of control. I currently live in a neighborhood where a vast majority of the dogs are pit bulls and I love pit bulls but most of these dogs are chained up in their yards and lunge aggressively off leash. Others walk down their street with their ignorant “owners” who are only interested in having their dogs look as big as possible, large spike collars are the preferred accessory. Once one of these dogs jumped the fence of its yard and landed in front of our dogs, I was terrified. I blame the owners 100% and not hte dogs, but Id still encounter a barky Yorkie any day.

    I have encountered many many many so called dog lovers who harbor a prejudice against small dogs and often against certain breed traits. You know what a yorkie or chihuahua HAS a high pitched bark, much like a lab or wolfhound or mastiff has a low bark. Its a simple state. Also that dog in a purse or bag may not be a “fashion accessory” as you put it perhaps the dog is a loved family member who accomponies the owner to work or on a trip. One benefit of a small dog is its easy portability, thats just common sense. Also if you ask me better a fashion accessory then a neglected home security system (a common predicament for large dogs) though I agree it is a close call.

    I have five dogs and I admit they are not perfectly trained, you would probably call them obnoxious, because where they in my yard and you walked by they might bark and run up to the fence. But they are securely fenced in my yard and I am out there working with them and often calling them off. You may conclude I never walk them as they bark, well actually they walk at least an hour a day.

    Also, of my five dogs two of them are leash aggresive (one large and one small(. My husband I have worked dilligently with them and they are much better. We go to great pains to avoid approaching other dogs closely on walks and always apologize if they bark. Does they problem somehow make us bad owners because it has not entirely gone away, and yes they got lots and lots of socialization as puppies and attended classes and walked and we read all the of the dog books.

    I really am very disapointed in this post and you may say that is because I am a small dog owner and it hits to close to home (please remember I am also a large dog owner), but had you replaced the term small dog with the term pit bull I am pretty sure plenty of people would be offended.

    I will note again in closing that I like pitbulls very much and in fact own a pit mix. Regardless they are often the victims of irresponsible owners, as I suppose some small dog owners are too. However, plenty of responsible pit bull owners and responsible small dog owners are also the victim of a judgemental and predjudiced public.

    Urban Hounds

    • I live in a neighborhood that has a mostly small dogs, and most of them are honorable little yappy creatures with the exception of a couple who are very nice dogs. I also have a leash aggressive Dane I am constantly working with and these dogs have made my life incredibly hard, often on the very end of a flexi-leash pitching a fit at my dog. Fortunately my new trainer has helped me make amazing progress with her lately and now the yappy creatures are a training opportunity.

      I will freely admit that I was not prepared for raising my girl, I had no idea how hard it would be to raise a smart, willful Great Dane. I think that there should be a certification process for dog ownership. A class that you go to and learn about dog parenting, selecting a breed, healthcare, puppy vs older dog and more. After you are certificated you can adopt a dog. The adoption process would take you through a series of classes with your new pet; you don’t complete program you surrender the dog.

      • As you refer to small dogs in your neighborhood who suffer the exact same issue as your dog horrible yappy creatures, I assume your comfortable with your great dane being referred to as a Horrible Vicious Giant? As I mentioned in my other post long leashes and flexi leashes are not in my opinion a small dog issue. Are you ok with large dogs on flexi leads and long lines because I encounter plenty of them? I am not a fan of long lines and flexi leads or off lead dogs my self but they are not a small dog issue. Same with barking small and large dogs bark and small breeds have higher pitched barks.

        What about small breed owners who may be working with their dogs on similar issues to yours. I have leash aggresive small dogs and have worked dilligently. Plenty of times an off lead dog or a dog on a long line, small or large has gotten close to my dog or run up to my dog. Its part of owning a dog and its not my favorite part either. I never, ever, ever have thought of the size of the dog in the equation, I have been approached by large and small.

        AS for all these classes and things people are suggesting, training classes are great, education is great. However, making it nearly impossible to get a dog and making owners feel incompotent will in the long run hurts dogs. We all want dogs to have wonderful homes, but we also need to realize that all people are different and even a home that does not seem to be “perfect” is often wonderful. What a bout people without yards, with jobs, with kids, older people, who decides what the “right home” looks like?

        My husband is a great example. He would likely not attend training classes with our dogs if it were not for me. However, he ADORES our dogs. I am confident he would be a loving and excellent owner even without the classes, and I know PLENTY of caring dog guardians who did not attend training classes or only attended puppy K. Though I always recommend classes Twenty years ago training classes where a rarity, was everyone a bad owner then?

        Now I am all for education, training classes, and owner outreach. However, it needs to be in a positive non-judgemental way. Training classes offered for free at local shelters, opportunities for kids to do agility with their dogs, free spay and neuter for low income owners, etc.

        We also need to remember dogs are dogs: they bark, they lunge, they yap, they poo, they puke on the couch, they chew things. Part of dog ownership is accepting dogs are not stuffed animals, even your well socialized canine with training class certificates may not be therapy dog materials. He or she may chase cats or may be leash agressive. They are not perfect, though they are for more perfect then us humans, they for one are for more forgiving, if only we could be the same.

        Urban Hounds

        • I have had people say “Can’t you control you dog”, “Oh my god your dog is horrible”, and much much more. I take Abby’s leash aggression VERY seriously and want everyone around me and her to be safe. I have never said “this is as good as Abby can be”, even if it were true I’d still try and because of that she has improved more than I ever thought possible.
          We have a number of people in my area that are working on behavior problems, we respect each other, help when we can, are happy for each other when we see improvement.
          It is the people that don’t do anything about it that I have a problem with, they make it hard for people who give a hoot, and probably at some point their dog will be surrendered to a shelter. Get a dog, do nothing, make it not adoptable.
          You can’t adopt a child without being approved, and then there is follow up from the adoption agency, why should it be different for dogs.

  3. Oh and I also hate extension leashes, but on today walk I encountered five extension leashed dogs (3 small 2 big) so that is also a non small dog issue

    urban hounds

  4. Aww yes, the small dog syndrome. Spoiled like the baby of the family. “But they are so cuuuuuteeee” No, they are not. They are in need of training and discipline.

  5. I love this solution. One should have to earn the right to get a puppy by proving they are responsible and remotely knowledgeable about dogs. It would change so many things and ensure that the only people who have dogs are those who really want one. There would be no more impulse buys, no more puppies given as presents to unexpecting recipients. And a lot fewer dogs surrendered to shelters.

    I would also posit that all animals should be mircochipped. That way if some ignorant jackass abandons their cat in their apartment when they moved, the cat would be scanned and could be traced to the owner. Said owner would then not be permitted so own another pet for a set period of time.

  6. My whole passion is keeping animals out of shelters. I do agree that the adolescents end up having a hard time of it – full grown body and mind of a puppy. I work on educating the children (do courses at the junior schools), trying to ensure that the next generation understands dog body language and responsible ownership. I also try to ensure that non of them end up getting bitten. If they understand a dogs body language, they’ll know when to back off and what not to do. I hate seeing animals in shelters because they have bitten as a last resort.

  7. Make it harder to get a dog.
    To get my puppy I had to submit 4 references (that were checked), fill out a 9 page application with very detailed questions, have a phone interview, have an in-person interview, submit photos of my home and pictures of myself and my pets and finally I was ALLOWED on to the list to POSSIBLY get a puppy.
    Then when I made in onto the final list that got a puppy I had to put down a $500 deposit (non-refundable) – which was 1/4 of the final puppy price.

    So make it harder to get a puppy – can’t be a whim decision and charge more. Yes, puppies are too expensive, but if you have to save for that puppy and it is a sizeable chunk of money….you are MUCH more careful with your new addition.

    Also, I think it’s important to be acountable to someone. The breeder checks in with me weekly and wants to know how ‘her’ puppies are doing. In the contract I signed, if something were to happen to me (died or injured for life) – the dog goes back to the breeder, unless she approves the new home.

  8. I love this post – you can tell it was meant to be satire simply by it’s title (based on a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift). Pamela is obviously saying the problem is not the dogs, it’s the OWNERS!

    • I know its a satire, but I still dont like the focus on small dogs. Had it been on all dogs I would have thought it was a well thought out post

      urban hounds

      • Of course it also focused on adolescents. I am aware I may appear over sensitive but there is a lot of prejudice against small dogs with all the yappy little dog talk, and it does bother me. I think sometimes we actually hold small dogs to a hire standard and are dismissive of them at the same time. AS for firs time owners I dont think there is an accurate way to fully no if someone will be a good owner. I had a puppy first dog out, was 23, newly married, and worked. On paper I am sure I looked awful. That dog is the love and focus of my life. Now I live in the city, work, and have five dogs. My life revolves around them. There is no exact formula for good pet parenthood and no formula for good parenthood either. The best is for the pet parent to research breeds and for breeder/rescue and owner to get to know eachother. I never filled out an application for my current puppy. However, I spoke to the breeder at length several times and we keep in touch. Same with my bulldogs breeder. They questioned me closely, go to know me, and to know how I care for my dogs. I signed a contract that if anything happens the dog returns to them. I also provided proof of spay/neuter and promised to attended classes.
        urabn hounds

        • I don’t think little dogs are held to a higher standard at all. If a little dog bites someone, he gets a pass, because, oh, he’s just a cute little thing. If a big dog bites, it’s often a death sentence. Little dogs don’t face BSL, either. And yet, most of the times I’ve been bitten (I volunteer to help teach dog obedience for our local 4H), it’s been little dogs.

  9. When I read your title I thought you were going to suggest we go all cuisine on them. Which would be a solution.

    As the owner of mostly small dogs I am appalled at the bad behaviors some people teach the poor things. It is not the dogs’ fault when owners reward them for being obnoxious and then can’t control them.

  10. We agree with Vicki. ……. it is always the owners. Have a lovely Saturday and take care.
    Best wishes Molly

  11. I think what people need to understand is that having a dog is hard work. Most potential dog owners only imagine the good and happy times. If they got a loaner dog who has to be walked a mile before dawn, got sick all over the sofa, barked at every person, dog, and vehicle that drove by, and would only sleep sideways in the bed with them and could survive that for two weeks, they’d be allowed to get a dog of their choosing.

    • I like the loaner dog idea! A little taste of what’s to come so that the prospective owner isn’t taken by surprise…

    • I am all about this plan! I also 100% support the idea of foster-to-adopt, and I really think all dogs should be homed that way.

  12. Satire or not, as the shelters force the dogs to be neutered, they should also force them to be put in an obedience class. If people can afford a dog, they can afford a class.

    As for extension leashes – THEY should be BANNED. I literally almost killed my self because it was dark and the owner was on her cell phone and let the dog pull to the full extension. She was on one side of the sidewalk and the dog was on the other. I didn’t see the black cord, at night, and tripped over the cord. Luckily I was able to catch myself before I crashed to the cement. The owner didn’t even pause in her conversation. My thoughts are unprintable.

    I admit I have an extension leash. I use it in the park after 9 AM, when dogs must be on a leash. BJ can run an extra 16 ft. on the grass. I DO NOT use it in the city streets.

  13. I like your proposal and Amy’s suggestion! BOL!! Now who’s going to enforce it?? :)

  14. Responsible ownership for dogs large and small, old and young, is an appropriate suggestion!

    Points for usage of Jonathan Swift.

  15. Maybe some required reading for new pet owners and required training classes too! I have seen first hand how a perfectly good puppy has been ruined by new pet parents that have done nothing to train him. :( I still think the biggest problem is that people don’t truly understand the amount of work required to have a well behaved dog.

  16. Leaving aside the satirical focus on little dogs, I think we take a big risk when we make it too onerous for folks to adopt shelter dogs. Which do we prefer for these animals – euthanization or an “imperfect” home – and who gets to decide which homes are just not good enough? Example – Is it fair to say a shelter dog should not go home unless the adopters have a fenced yard? I’ve seen many examples of people who love their pets, the pets are happy and well cared for, but who don’t do everything “right” enough by some ideal standards.
    I like the idea of requiring basic obedience classes, which are all about educating the owners anyway, along with neutering/spaying. I think shelters and rescues could reasonably do that when they adopt out a dog. I also think shelters need to make it very clear to potential owners that the financial costs are quite a bit higher than some folks expect.
    Finally, let me say that if we figure out a way to make everyone raise well-loved, well-behaved, well-fed, well-groomed, and well-adjusted pets, maybe there’s hope for our human children who unfortunately don’t have the most capable parents and/or circumstances either.

  17. I don’t have any suggestions that haven’t already been mentioned. But I would be interested to know if there’s any similarity between people who raise puppies badly and their children’s behaviour?

  18. Personally (and I know this will never happen and would never be enforceable), I’d love to see the requirement that all puppies sold be microchipped and registered to the breeder and the responsibility for them when they end up in the shelter fall back upon the people who bred them. But, you know, pipe dream.

    It’s a hard thing, the shelter population. While there are more homes than there are dogs in shelter, a big, untrained adolescent dog (and so often pit bull) is a hard sell. It’d be nice if more shelters had the resources to properly exercise and work on training more of these dogs in order to make them more adoptable and appealing, but most of the time shelters are just hanging on by their fingertips. It’s a frustrating situation.

  19. I think that is a great “puposal”. Instead of the dog you want, you should be given the dog you need. :-)

  20. Great suggestions!
    I have a puppy – but my first two dogs were middle aged and adolescent, so I know enough about dogs already! I don’t think I would have been well prepared for my first ever dog to be a puppy. From previously having experience and a bond with a fully grown dog it makes me more understanding and patient with my pup. (as he lies beside me rolling about chewing rawhide as I type haha)

    • You know it depends. My first dog was a puppy and it was very pleasant for me and I had plenty of patience. I in fact faced, to be totally honest, had more challenges integrating my one senior rescue into the home. She had fear related issues that were more difficult for me to deal with. I feel like with a puppy you get a bit of a blank slate and have a lot of opportunity to mold it into the dog you want. I just love puppies, large and small, and really dont even see it as that much hard work. When you are doing something you love its never work. An hour after I got my first puppy I was thinking “I was born for this.” I know this might not be the experience of the average pet owner but I know many loving pet parents who got a puppy as a first dog and have a wonderful relationship with the puppy. I would never want to deprive people of having the wonderful bond with dogs that I enjoy and enriching their lives and a dogs life. Sure, some people shouldnt own dogs and make dreadful pet parents, but some people are dreadful people over all. Its a sad fact of life.

  21. I would make ALL breeding illegal for four years. Then everyone who wants a dog will have to jump through hoops the way people wanting to adopt have to now. Want do adopt in the US? Wait years or take in an older child. Want a baby? Fork out the bucks and travel to another country. Then, when all the shelters and rescues are cleared out, we can talk rationally about what we’re going to allow and not allow as far as breeding goes.

    Of course, that’ll never happen. But I can dream, can’t i?

  22. Well this is probably not modest, but it works.
    License dog owners
    Require microchips
    Require an obedience training certificate to get your dog his license AND CE to renew it. (ONLY from positive dog trainers)
    Mandatory pet dog counseling before you release your dog to a shelter (YES even if you are moving)
    No new animals of any kind for at least one year from the date of turning an animal over to a shelter

  23. Anybody who wants a dog and has children will have to prove that their children are well-mannered and under control. Nobody who can’t control their kids should add a dog to the mix!

  24. I think all future pet owners should be required to go through some sort of educational classes on owning a pet and before they can adopt they need to show proof that they completed and passed the class! Oh, and it should be a class that lasts a full school year, not just one day and they should be given an egg to see if they can care for it throughout the year. Just my unbiased opinion:)

  25. I’ve been wanting to comment on this all weekend! (I was out doing yard work and attending meetings so couldn’t get to much this weekend.)

    Amen sister! I would love to see a waiting period for all dogs and cats. You want that cute little Yorkie (my nemesis as well) today? Nope! Have to wait a week to think about it. I kind of like your idea of giving them a big dog though. I cared for too many neurotic little dogs because they were treated like a baby or an accessory.

    I would also like to tell pregnant moms they can’t get a puppy until after they have the kid. That way they can see if they really can handle having a dog and a new baby in the house.

  26. Lots and lots of good suggestions. Personally I think rescues and breeders as well should have an affiliation with a trainer, who will offer a discounted price for people who bring their dogs to class.

    Follow-up by the rescue/shelter/breeder is necessary to ensure all are adjusting well to their environment and to be ready to assist with any issues.

    License breeders to ensure they are not over-populating the breed, or over-breeding the dog.

    Low-cost spay/neuter programs.

    A national database for abusers or neglecters.

    We call Sampson a Golden Lab, but he’s a mutt. No more designer dogs that you pay thousands of dollars for. :-)

  27. You know, I’m going to have to count myself amongst the offended party poopers on this one. My first dog was a puppy. I did not run out to buy a puppy because I thought they were cute. I didn’t even go to a shelter and insist that I could only adopt a puppy. Instead, I saved a puppy that someone abandoned.

    I knew nothing about dogs. I’d had one, when I was a little kid, that lived outside and eventually moved in with my neighbor.

    So what did I do? I researched my ass off. I read a dozen dog training books before he was seven weeks old, and did everything I could from their suggestions. I took him to puppy class. When he was too scared to play in puppy class, I followed up with puppy daycare, because I knew how important it was to socialize him. I enrolled him in obedience class to keep him around other dogs, even though I had already taught him all of the material. When he was too anxious to move to the next level of obedience class, I waited until he was older and tried again.

    He isn’t a perfect dog by a long, long stretch. He’s an adolescent dog with an anxiety problem and less than great manners with strangers. Maybe an experienced owner could have done better with him, could have overcome his natural fearfulness, but I seriously doubt it.

    So, thanks a million for issuing a blanket statement calling me a bad dog owner.

  28. Well, I thought it was funny. However, since I’ve already been part of an internet brawl this week, I’m tempted to leave it at that. Then again, I’ve never been one to know when to shut my mouth…

    Anyone who’s offended might want to re-consider your header text. You’re not calling little dogs obnoxious, you’re talking specifically about obnoxious little dogs. If your little dog isn’t obnoxious because you’ve taken responsibility for it and trained it and you didn’t buy it as a fashion accessory, perhaps Pamela’s not talking about you?

    Maybe, in fact, people should be offended by those people who DO get little dogs because they look cute in a hand-bag or laugh when it bites because, you know, it’s just a little dog?

    Maybe people should be offended by those who get a cute little puppy only to dump it the minute it’s not quite as cute or it doesn’t behave because no one ever trained it?

    Maybe we should be offended at the gross negligence of people who take a life in their hands and toss it away as so much yesterday’s garbage leaving others to figure out how to restore the trust of the dog they’ve dumped?

    Maybe we should be offended at people who don’t spay and neuter their mutts? And before anyone gets offended at my use of the word mutt, I am the proud owner of one. Anyone who wants to breed their mixed breed dog should have that dog taken away from them. Seriously. I couldn’t mean that more.

    How offended are we about the fact that the US euthanizes 4 million dogs a year? Good grief people, priorities!

    Sorry for the rant, Pamela, I just wanted to give people another target. 😉

  29. I had to come back to read all the comments after reading your latest post. It’s interesting how the discussion has turned out. It has always been my hope that by making a satire of little dogs on long (unretracted) leashes, that I could make some IRRESPONSIBLE littledog owners sit up and do something momentous (like retract their leashes on crowded sidewalks and at cafes, for example).

    I’ve had both little and giant dogs. I suppose the subject will always be contentious because no one likes being told their baby is a brat, big or little. But it always comes back to the owners for me. Here are some phrases that owners of littledogs should really reconsider saying when their babies are yapping (ooops… barking) and lunging at a bigdog at the end of their unretracted leashes – “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.” “He just thinks he’s a big dog.” “He’s such a brave little boy.” and my personal favourite when 3 littledogs charged up to 55kg Rufus at a park, growling… “They’re scary, aren’t they?”

    I suspect, in fact I know, that many littledog owners have absolutely no idea how much work littledogs can be. When JRTs became The Dog To Have thanks to the movies, even the club had to come out with warnings that they were fearsome hunters, high energy dogs and not suitable for children. Many people opt for littledogs because they think they need less exercise (how far can those short legs go, right?), are suitable for small spaces like apartments, are cute and easier to handle. With misconceptions like that, no wonder so many end up at the pound. There’s even a shelter here that specialises in nothing but littledogs.

    What can we do about this? For a start, pounds (and breeders) should talk honestly with wouldbe owners about littledog personalities. They have to debunk myths popularised by celebrities, movies and commercials. I don’t see any other way to give both the dogs and the owners a fighting chance of having a good and happy life together.

    That’s my belated 2 cents. BTW, if you’re a RESPONSIBLE littledog owner reading this, this has obviously nothing to do with your good work. Let me also note here that Georgia has a lot of littledog friends, both online and in real life. And lastly, I hope everyone realises that this post has nothing to do with vilifying, and everything to do with trying to build a better dog community for everyone, big and little. For that, thank you Pamela X

  30. This has all been rather entertaining, to say the least. I completely get your satire and frankly think there are far too many people the world over who are overly sensitive about any number of things. I don’t understand why anyone takes personally something that was not directed at them, personally. But whatever. I love so many of the ideas here about making dog adoption harder, particularly because I know both a small-dog owner who doesn’t treat the dog like a dog and a medium-sized dog owner who has told me she would only adopt puppies because older dogs are damaged goods/you don’t know what you’re getting. Le sigh…

  31. Pam, after reading your more recent post, I came back to read all of the comments (which I did not do the first time around) and after doing so, I am surprised by many of these comments and the negativity in them. I personally thought this was a well written post, and not to be taken literally. I don’t think this post was a jab at small dogs at all…it was a jab at bad owners, and gave a creative unique look at ways to make them good owners. Just wanted to comment again to leave my support.