One of the basic ingredients for a positive owner-dog relationship recipe is compatibility. Being able to handle your dog. This implies a broader concept and application of being in harmony with the type of environment, other animals on the property and suitability for the lifestyle of the people affected.
There are an alarming percentage of people who want dog breeds that they will never admit that they cannot handle. Being a handler does not only require having the inherent talent of assertiveness but the physical control is a very important aspect of pet ownership that is not considered seriously enough.
The term “handle” is a very broad one. The temperament of the owner and dog must be singing from the same song-sheet for mutual homeostasis to exist. It is disconcerting for a couch potato to be in possession of a hyperactive hunting dog such as a Jack Russell Terrier. It is unfair for both parties when the person wants to relax and watch television and the dog is behaving out of frustration in its instinctive desire to burn up all its pent-up energy. If you own such a breed, hopefully you are young, energetic, work out at a gymnasium, jog on the road and spend most of your daily life on a farm. Then you will be able to handle this dog breed, individual dog and almost all other dogs.
If you are hyperactive and the dog is sedentary, such as a Pekingese, your shared physical activities will be very limited. Certainly, going for walks is well-tolerated, sometimes lengthy ones in the cool of the dusk or dawn. You cannot run, swim or do agility work with a Peke without the dog potentially suffering life-threatening health problems. In general, can you handle having a dog that cannot complement your energy levels?
There are those people who are addicted to specific medium, large and giant breeds that they can physically handle quite competently when young, able and strong. As we get older and atrophy, develop arthritis and osteoporosis, having large breeds is a serious liability especially if the pets are untrained and boisterous. Some people do not grow old gracefully and are not being honest and responsible to all and sundry by continuing to keep a large pet dog that they cannot easily handle. There are many recorded and reported cases of dogs, in their excitement, bowling people over and causing serious injuries. Elderly people, in particular, may suffer bone fractures and require hospitalization and surgery. People get knocked over and fall down stairs suffering multiple injuries. In a freak accident where a dog that had never been taught not to jump up on people caused a small frail relative of the family to fall backwards and in the process suffered a fracture of her femur. Besides having a break in her leg an embolus of fat metastasized to her lung and she died a few days later – all over a dog she could not handle.
I saw a lady the other day with her right shoulder strapped up and on enquiring what the ailment was it turned out that she was being walked by her Rottweiler and the dog made a sudden instinctive decision to bolt in a sideways direction and dislocated her shoulder. Why was she not walking a dog of a size she could handle? As one gets older the size of dog needs to be downgraded proportionate to one’s physical strength, for a start.
Another lady owns three Great Danes that, although they have undergone early puppy socialization, do not know their own strength and in the normal run of play with each other they have bruised her by running in to her, sprained her ankle on a few occasions and knocked the wind out of her where her glasses also went flying. While these dogs may be endearing and a historical breed preference the owner weighs fifteen to twenty kilograms lighter than any one of her dogs. This is such a dangerous arrangement that anyone in the know would have advised against their acquisition at the outset and with the situation as it exists there is a constant low-grade fear and the screaming heebie-jeebies that there is a tragedy waiting to happen. If a happy giant breed is excited to see you arrive home and you get hit from the side by a dog weighing anything from thirty-five to eight-five kilograms at twenty kilometers per hour you could get killed.
Many people, with a height disadvantage and slight in build, who try to control their untrained, unsocialised medium and large breed dogs are usually pulled all over the park, street and veterinary waiting rooms. It is not only an indication of owner idiocy but is irresponsible towards other people and pets when a small woman or man or an elderly woman or man is uncontrollably trailing their lunging pet into an area with other members of the public and their animals. One has to be cognizant of one’s capabilities and if you know you cannot handle your own dog then ask for professional help.
A majority of people cannot effectively and trustworthily restrain their pets on the veterinary consulting table because they do not know how to, are subservient to their animals or are genuinely scared that they may be bitten. Having a dog that you cannot handle is not good for the dog, its owner and the supposed bond which should exist between them. A question to ask regarding these defective handling abilities is what has the owner been doing with the pet all along? Kissing it, cuddling it, teaching it to be helpless and hopeless?
Before purchasing a pet seek the advice of experts so that these ridiculous situations can be avoided. Any dog that feels the handler is not physically in charge will instinctively take advantage of the blatant, chronic weakness of strength. From having no respect for submissive humans the dog will naturally turn the traction on leads and harnesses into a game of control and power-play because the more it pulls its owner all over the place, the more the person screams and the greater the reward for the animal. What is the future of the human-animal bond when the dog is the boss?!
Another factor that needs to be kept at the back of one’s mind is placing yourself in an unnecessary, but likely, predicament with litigation if your dog inadvertently hurts someone else. Even the friendliest, boisterous medium or large pet dog is in the category of being the cause of a major disaster for its owners.
Early socialization from eight weeks of age at a reputable puppy training class followed by basic obedience can teach any compliant and dedicated pet owner of any stature to be in charge of any dog of any size. Without this foundation, the owner remains permanently uneducated hence the dog has no inkling about appropriate behaviour, basic commands responses and structure to its life. In essence, the culpability never lies with the dog – it is the fault of the handler and owner. Prevention is better than prosecution or having someone’s life on your conscience.
Can you handle your dog? If you cannot, then your dog is already handling you!