Model Dogs But What About the Owners?

dog for sale The Guardian today has a section of pictures, all beautifully shot, showing dogs dressed up supposedly to attract new owners.

Dogs are wreathed in flowers, draped in silks and velvets and all dolled up for a hoe down. Somewhere underneath all of this, some of the dogs beam happily out, some look anxious and uncomfortable. Many dogs feel uncomfortable at the direct “gaze” of a camera lens because they interpet it as a threat. Others cheerfully mug for the camera – I had a dog that nearly knocked someone overboard when we were travelling on a ferry because he was sure that the man wanted to take his photograph and was “helpfully” positioning himself in front of the camera. This was a dog that had been abused for 11 years before coming to me and really did not like strange people, unless that is, they were taking photographs!

The harm done to a dog that is uncomfortable at having it’s photograph taken is minimal. What I question, is whether dogs should be placed on sale in this way. Make no mistake about it, rescue or no, these dogs are for sale. They are as much commodities as a pair of second hand shoes being sold in a charity shop. The raison d’être of any rescue is to process as many animals as possible so that they can make room for more.

We all know that owners think it acceptable to buy a dog then treat it like a doll; how much more likely are they to do that if the dog is packaged up that way in the first place. “Aww, look at it’s cute ‘ickle face, all framed in pwetty flowers”.

Why not go out on a limb – show the dog racing after a ball, retrieving a Kong, rolling over for a tickle – BEING A DOG ON ITS OWN TERMS. Sorry to shout, but really. It’s time that we allowed dogs dignity and made owners realise that they are taking on another species with its own particular needs and that we owe dogs a duy of care in their own right.

Idiot of the Month

forcing dog to sit This is probably one of the saddest “Idiot of the Month” posts that I have had occasion to write. Dogs loose on roads, forced to run alongside bicycles or following jogging owners, dogs largely ignored by owners who nevertheless profess to “love” them etc etc. are par for the course.

This instance that I witnessed in the park is, however, a classic, all too common case, of a totally unsuitable owner at the top of the slippery slope to ruining a beautiful, already damaged dog and possibly getting hurt in the process.
I have known the owner to speak to for some time. When I first met her, she owned a small, nervous collie cross. The dog was elderly and not in the best of health but the owner was hysterically over-protective. She all but brought the dog’s bed out into the park I case she needed a rest, wouldn’t allow any other dog to so much look at her dog’s water bowl and did her best to keep other dogs away altogether, even though one of the remaining things that enabled her increasingly sickly dog to have some quality of life was her obvious enjoyment of interacting with other dogs.

Eventually, her dog died and, shortly afterwards, the owner re-appeared in the park with a stunning medium-sized adolescent collie cross bitch. The dog had been a street dog and was imported from Romania by a couple who soon decided that they were more interested in having children instead.
The dog is friendly with people and other dogs but has no training. In spite of this, she was allowed off the lead with the owner screaming hysterically and haring after her in an attempt to get her back as she bounded over to explore her new environment. My suggestion that basic training on a long line would be safer and that chasing an excited dog whilst screeching loudly is not the best method of recall was greeted with a stern admonition that the owner knows exactly what she is doing, thank you.

Finally the dog was restrained by a couple as she greeted their dog, at which point, the owner snatched her away, forced her rear-end down roughly and, face thrust in the dog’s face, started shouting at her. She also did not have the courtesy to thank the couple who’d caught her.

I opened my mouth to protest at the rough handling and then my blood ran cold. It was only a split second but, as clear as day, the dog turned hard-eyed, gave the merest suggestion of teeth being bared and made it abundantly clear that next time something similar happened, she would bite. Her muzzle was about a quarter of an inch away from the owner’s face and she was effectively in a head lock.

I tried to explain what had happened, but the owner would have none of it. “I’m not having her behave like that” was all that she said.

So, this poor dog has no training, is passed around like an unwanted parcel and re-homed with someone who expects her to “behave” automatically and then punishes her for not knowing how to. This owner may well end up with a very stressed and dangerous dog indeed.

Tragically, whatever happens to the human, this is not a story that tends to end well for the dog.

Italian Earthquake Recovery

sniffer dog Italy As the death toll rises and people begin to count the human and financial consequences of the devastating earthquake in Amatrice, Italy this week, sniffer dogs like the one pictured here go about their work with their handlers. Teams from all over Italy have gathered, as in all similar disasters to sift through the rubble and ruins systematically for signs of life.

Far fewer dogs are bred for working with livestock, pulling sleds, assisting fishermen or any of the other myriad of tasks that man has set them over the centuries. Their new jobs however mean that their unique ability to live closely with man, combined with mightly scenting ablities is being channelled to save lives, sometimes at the risk of their own.

Four Days Two Deaths

dog licence Just four days apart and two more fatalities caused by dogs – or rather caused by owners – hit the headlines.

The details of the particular circumstances hardly matter as they will have the same root causes:

  • It is too easy to breed, buy and sell dogs
  • There is no compulsion to attend any form of educational or training course before owning a dog
  • Reams of legislation are continually being passed but none is routinely enforced
  • There are far too few resources to instil and police responsible ownership.

The end result – people get injured and die. Dogs get injured and die.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman in whose constituency of Huddersfield a fatal dog attack occurred on Monday has called for the dog licence to be revived. Why on earth does he think that a piece of paper will begin to address the serious problems we have with dog ownership and society? A dog licence would record little more than the, now compulsory, microchip database. It needs no surveys to be certain that neither 100% of dog owners comply with this law nor that it is not being monitored or policed effectively.

If insufficient resources exist for the police to even be educated about the problems of dog ownership, let alone do anything about it; if insufficient resources exist for owners to be compelled to learn about their dogs before and during ownership, why will they be provided to administer a dog licence? Local authorities are far more concerned about bringing in additional revenue by fining owners for leaving a trace of faces behind when picking up than they are addressing serious concerns such as poor welfare, ignorance of owners and systematic abuse of dogs.

Tribute to Heath Robinson

Heath Robinson The late cartoonist William Heath Robinson (d 1944) is probably not a name that trips off the tongue as often as it once did. Although initially taking his name in vain related to his drawings of ridiculously complex, implausible machines for achieving otherwise simple tasks, it eventually referenced temporary fixes made using ingenuity and whatever was to hand such as string and tape.

I found myself taking a leaf from the great man’s book when, in an attempt to travel light, I threw too much out of my metaphorical travel balloon basket and left the dog’s show lead at home. Hardware and bead shop to the rescue – I found a piece of thin sash (red fleck 8mm in case you’re wondering) and a few beads just wide enough to make it look a bit less make do and mend. I stitched a loop at each end and threaded the beads on but then found myself stuck for how to secure it round the dog’s neck, having failed to find a suitable finding in the bead shop. Friend’s toolbox rifled, I popped washer on!

I probably wouldn’t recommend taking a fizzy, medium sized dog very far on a bit of twine and a small washer, but it got us a handful of rosettes!