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Let it Go – Stop Feeling Sorry For Your Dog

This article explains why it is unhealthy to pity or feel sorry for your dog. No matter what your dog has been through, pity will create behavioral issues. This article explains that most dog-owners, especially those who have adopted a rescued dog, don’t realize that feeling sorry for your dog does emotional harm.

All Dogs Should Be Expected to Behave

Bart

I was listening to Cesar Milan on a radio station a few weeks ago trying to answer the question, “why do you think so many dogs get returned from shelters and pounds?”  What Cesar tried to explain was that people feel sorry for the shelter dog, and when they bring the dog home, they treat it with a tremendous amount of pity, they treat it like an orphan, and let it get away with very bad behavior.   They won’t correct the dog, because it has been through so much. As I was listening, I realized that he really wasn’t explaining it well enough for the average person to identify with.  I felt that people listening would say, “oh, I would never do that,” when in fact they do!  I don’t think people truly realize what they should and should not do when they bring a dog home.

Bart

Be Proud of Your Dog

If you think about it, and you purchased a pup from a phenomenal breeder, you would be proud of your new pup, showing it off to everyone and bragging about its bloodline, the titles its parents have won, and your dreams for your new pup.  But that’s not how people act or feel when they bring home a pup from the pound; a pup that is emaciated, maybe is full of worms, has runny poop, cries all night long, and is confused.

Do Not Reward Fear

People who see a dog cower at the sight of as human hand for some reason want to embrace it, pet it, tell it it’s okay, and that just makes the dog even worse.  The dog has actually been rewarded for being afraid of the hand. I have had many people come to my home with their adopted dog, asking to adopt a second dog from me to keep their dog company.  Many times the potential adopters discuss in detail the horrible conditions that their dog originally came from.  They treat their dog like it’s still being abused, in other words, carrying the pity that they have for their dog in their heart and on their sleeve.  It doesn’t take me very long to realize that their dog is neurotic, and stuck.

Shep

Don’t Make Excuses For Your Dog’s Behavior

What I witness is a very nervous and unsure dog.  The owners make up excuses for their dog.  Their dog may growl at another dog, or show it’s teeth at me, and they make excuses for their dog.  Their dog may be food-aggressive, and they make excuses for their dog.

Is Your Dog Stuck, Living in the Past?

A few times, I’ve literally asked the couple to leave their dog with me, “go have lunch and leave me alone with your dog for an hour so I can properly introduce the two dogs to each other,” I beg, because I know that it’s their energy that’s preventing the dog’s joy.  They refuse to leave, they refuse to give me a chance, they refuse to give their dog a chance, because they enjoy seeing their dog needy, confused and unsure so they can be their dog’s savior. Their dog is stuck living in its past.  To the dog’s owners, he’s always seen as the pathetic, needy, starving dog they brought home from the filthy pound, and that’s NOT what your dog wants – and that’s not what your dog is today.

Shep

Make Your Dog’s Pity Party Brief

Since I recently worked with Winter, Shep and even before then Shy Sharon, I go overboard with potential adopters explaining to them that under no circumstances are they to feel sorry for their dog.  Even in the worse cases, like Bart and China, for example, I too feel a lot of empathy for the abused and neglected dogs that I rescue… but only for 24 hours.  After that dog is with me for a day, I brush it off and the dog and I begin a new day, begin a new journey, and the dog knows that there is not one ounce of pity in my heart for him any longer.  Those days are gone, it’s time to move on and be proud.

They call it tough love

Only on a few occasions I’ve allowed someone to adopt from me not knowing that they want the dog because they felt sorry it-it always ends in disaster.  Yet people are more attracted to the damaged dogs than the perfectly fine dogs.  Dogs like Chaz, for example, has never been in a pound, he was never abused or neglected, he’s just a great dog.  Yet 99% of potential adopters want to adopt the sad abused and neglected dogs, like Shep. While I was trying to explain this to a friend last week, I used an analogy that just came out before I realized I had just had a major Ah Ha moment.

Tiny Dancer

Your Dog Is Not an Orphan Anymore

As a young teenager, I was quite a handful.  I was disrespectful and rude to my parents; I thought I knew everything.  I didn’t appreciate how hard they worked for the family, and how lucky I was.  Every heated argument ended with my Mom or Dad saying, “if it wasn’t for us, you would have died; we saved your life.” Those words always ran through my veins like ice.  Instead of being grateful that they adopted me (a sickly three month-old baby abandoned by her mother and given to a catholic orphanage) it did the opposite-I resented it.  I did not ask to be there, I did not ask to be adopted, and at three months of age, I certainly had no say in selecting my family.

My Collie, when I was just a kid

My Collie, when I was just a kid

The statement itself infuriated me.  Why?  Because I did not want to be seen or treated like that pathetic and unwanted orphan.  I wanted to be appreciated for who I had become.  I did not want to be a sickly orphan, I wanted to be their healthy yet combative teenager daughter! I remember thinking to myself, if they were so unhappy with me, why did they adopt? Today, of course I realize that this was normal teenage rebellion and if we wouldn’t have fought about that, we would’ve fought about something else!

But I do understand that when a dog is adopted, he should be adopted because he is wanted.  He should be adopted because he will add to the family, not give the family a sad story to hang onto.  Stop the Drama!

Winter

If you have ever met me, and met China, you’d understand my energy.  China is probably one of the most abused dogs I’ve ever rescued, yet when I introduce her and show her off to people, I do it with great pride.  I don’t dwell on her past, I don’t want people to feel sorry for her, I want people to see her beauty, recognize her intelligence, and more importantly witness her incredible loyalty and joy. Yes she was unwanted, abandoned, surrendered to a kill shelter, scheduled to be put down and deemed un-adoptable.  Yes, she was beaten and took months to rehabilitate, but that shroud does not follow her because we will not pity her.

I work very hard when I rescue and foster a dog with a horrible past to close that door and lock it permanently.  If you are thinking of adopting a dog from a shelter, rescue or pound, or if you are getting a dog off of Craig’s list, or a parking lot, realize that if you’re stuck in the dog’s past, your dog will never grow emotionally, because of you.

Winter

It matters not where your dog came from, it’s up to you to undo the past, and help your dog find joy.

There is no joy in pity.

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9 Comments

  1. Vicki Bucy

    02.26.2013

    Reply

    Wonderful article Giselle. I have been guilty of the same thing and I am happy that you gave me a heads up about his behavior.

    Appreciate it.

  2. Brittney

    02.26.2013

    Reply

    Well said Gisele, just recently my mom took in a dog that was not properly socialized and was afraid of anything that moved. A fear biter if put into certain situations. She would snap if restrained she would run with a tucked tail if something strange approached her. I walk in head high shoulders back and I walk right up to her motion for her to come to me and I wait it out she is looking away with her tucked tail I don’t budge i reach she hunckers down I move closer. Did I care she was afraid? yes! was it an excuse for her to cower? NO! I eventually moved in close enough she had a choice fight me off or give up… She gave up came to me and we bonded from that point forward she has loved me and greets me with a wagging tail. Obedience training has been a great asset in her rehabilitation it has boosted her confidence and forced her to step out of her comfort zone with strange people strange surroundings and more importantly strange DOGS! She today is a totally different dog than she was 7 weeks ago! She is Confident, Accepting and MOST OF ALL HAPPY!!!! She is a joyful dog again she isn’t sheltered something that everyone was doing “Leave her alone she is scared!” My response “I’m not!” really what I wanted to say was “She will get over it!” Am I cold? well no, although some will disagree… I have my reasons, I am not going to ignore her while she is shutting me out, That is what she wants! if she runs away scared I will leave her alone and she won’t have to face her fear. That is doing NOTHING to help her! She thanks me every time I see her for what I done. I forced her to face her fears and showed her that people aren’t scary. Did I walk up and pet her while she was cowered down? No! I waited her out until she gave up and came to me and I at that time gave her verbal praise, petting and treats!

  3. Brittney

    02.26.2013

    Reply

    I have seen all too often people will go to the shelters for small dog ex:Chihuahua and they see this GIANT Great Dane in a kennel at the end of the run curled up in a ball skinny, shaking, scared and they feel immediate pain and empathy for this GIANT dog. Now is that what the family had walked into that shelter looking for? No they wanted a 5lb dog not 105lb dog, but they leave the shelter that day with this pitiful 105lb Giant! They get home and realize that in less than a week that 20lb bag of dog food they bought is now gone! The dog has skin allergies, food allergies, needs special foods. How are they going to afford to keep something that eats so much? and they haven’t thought about how they were to afford vetting when the time comes when dogs are that big everything is big! Big food bill, big vet bill, big bed, big car, big yard, big poo, big EVERYTHING! Everyday dogs are returned and taken to the shelters, posted on craigslist, Kijiji etc… simply saying “Can No Longer Afford!” Most of these dogs have been with these families less than a MONTH! People please they don’t need pity they need commitment and confidence, Stability and TRUST!

  4. Vee Robillard

    02.26.2013

    Reply

    You’re a caring soul, and I’m proud of you.

  5. Kathy Keith

    03.05.2013

    Reply

    A very insightful and heartfelt article. Thank you for sharing!!

  6. Annie Boland

    03.05.2013

    Reply

    Cesar Milan has been one of the reasons why dogs end up in shelters. His methods are diabolical.Creating fear and misunderstanding between dogs and humans, I am a trainer and use positive ONLY methods I adopted Scarlett ( Snapple) from TDL and I volunteer my services at our local animal shelter. It saddens me that Milan still gets air time, he should be banned. I would think twice about mentioning him in any article linked to TDL.

  7. Brenda

    03.05.2013

    Reply

    I have to disagree Annie, while everyone is entitled to their own opinions I do not believe that Cesar’s approach is the fault of the dogs in our shelters. I use many of Cesar’s methods in training my own dogs. While he has some that I just don’t see the point (maybe its just me) all approaches and lessons I have learned from Cesar have been successful for both training myself and my dog(s). While I understand positive reinforcements I do not see where Cesar’s approach is negative, let alone evil?

    I have great respect for Cesar and his methods. Nothing Cesar has shown has caused me to misread my dog(s) or fear them, if anything it has allowed me to see things from the dogs point of view and slow my own mind down enough to understand what I am or need to ask of my dog(s).

    Dogs are in our pounds because Humans dont understand their dogs and what they are trying to tell them! Humans don’t understand that their dog is urinating all over the house because it has a UTI or Bladder infections caused by the crap food they are feeding or they have a loose stool because they change dog food like they change their underwear. The humans don’t understand that the dog is chewing their shoes or couch pillows because they haven’t provided any bones or toys for the dog to occupy its time or they don’t walk the dog or give it the opportunity to burn off excess energy. The humans don’t understand that their dog is nervous and bites visitors and or family members because they do not have a crate or a safe place for the pet to go to get away from the tings that make it nervous. I believe Gisele had an article on here about a girl and her Great Dane that was showing unwanted behavior and she i believe used some of Cesar’s methods and a crate and the dog transformed to a perfectly happy family pet again! 9/10 it is the fault of the humans ignorance that lands these dogs in shelters it isn’t the dog and it isn’t Cesar Milan. But again we all have and are entitled to our own opinions.

  8. Gisele

    03.25.2013

    Reply

    Thank you for all of these comments. I’ve received several emails, thanking me for writing this post.

  9. M.H.

    04.25.2013

    Reply

    Thank you for the post and the responses. I thought it was very appropriate that Bart’s pictures were included in this post. Since we brought him home, my husband and I have struggled to help Bart adapt to a safe environment. Unfortunately, this has been harder than we expected. Just last week, I had to confess to Gisele that the reason that Bart and I did not make it to the Earth Day gathering was because Bart refused to get out of the car once we got to Lake Eola. I knew that I could call for help, but realized I didn’t have Gisele’s number with me (yes, I felt pretty foolish). As disappointed as I was about Bart’s behavior last week, I knew that I also needed to keep in mind how much progress we have made since September. When we first brought him home, Bart refused to leave the apartment and ran away from the neighbors. Now, he loves to go outside and actually plays with some of our neighbors (though he does like their dogs better). We still struggle through the walks, but I insist that we take one every day. He is very demanding in his wants and barks a lot to get our attention. However, we have found ways to reduce this by putting him in another room for about 10 minutes, and he will often stop barking when I just ask “Do you want to go into time out?” Bart and I still have a long way to go in reducing his fears, getting him to stop chewing up things other than his toys, and improving his socialization with people and small dogs. However, I know that with a lot of patience and persistence, he will learn to be a very well-adjusted dog. Thank you all for providing the support that will help us.

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