Socially Deprived Dogs
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Canine Behavior Associates
Academy of Dog Behavior Classes are Relocating!
Just one more module will be taught at Humane Society Silicon Valley (only because the commute from Marin is wearing)  After that, they'll be held at Lily's Legacy, a wonderful sanctuary/rescue in Petaluma
Advanced Modules for Academy Grads at
Humane Society Silicon Valley

Puppies to Adolescents and Aging Dogs will be held form 1 to 5 pm on Sundays, June 11, 18 and 25.  
Part I - Puppies - from birth through adolescence
Part II - Aging dogs - special needs of the aging dog and how owners can help
This course has been approved for 12 CPDT CEU's.
Academy of Dog Behavior Classes
at Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary
Each class is 9 hours long
three Sundays - 11 am to 2 pm
  • Trail Manners (stand alone workshop) - September 20, 2017 
  • Instincts, Emotions  and Body Language - Sundays, September 17, 24, 10/2
  • Multi-dog Households - Sundays, October 8, 15, 29
  • Anxiety - General and Separation - Sundays, November 5, 12, 19
  • Dog to Dog Aggression - Saturdays, December 3, 09, 17
For more information and to enroll in these or other classes, please click here
Socially Deprived Dogs and Uncomfortable Decisions
A family decides to get a dog, maybe even their first dog, and they want to rescue a dog in need, rather than purchase a ‘purebred.’ 
They go on the web, looking through Petfinders and on the websites of their local rescues and shelters.  The shelters, unfortunately, seem to have an overabundance of Chihuahua mixes and pit bull mixes.   This family would like a medium sized dog, not a tiny dog or a huge, powerful dog.  So they keep looking. 
And there they are - medium-sized dogs, brought in by well-meaning people from far-away places – Taiwan, or Korea, Mexico or Puerto Rico, Belize or Colombia...or even dogs from American reservations or inner-city strays.   Mixed breed dogs for the most part, they are between 35 and 45 pounds, and very cute!
The rescue groups find these dogs in over-full shelters or, in some cases, on beaches and streets.  They gather up the dogs, feed them, medicate them and spay or neuter them.   Then they put photos of the dogs on websites or Facebook, and wait for people to adopt them.  
The groups are filled with wonderful missionaries, who believe that life in these United States is much better than the streets where the dogs grew up.  
Everyone is happy – the rescuers, the adopters and the dogs.  Right? 
Well, not all the time…
While often these transplants do well, just as often they don’t.  Depending on the age of the adopted dog, where she grew up and the history of her mom, she may be in for some serious culture shock.  The new adopters may discover that their cute little dog loves them to pieces and is comfortable in their house, but is desperately afraid of anything new, and does not like strangers – of any sort – at all.  She also may guard what she has, and will use her teeth if she is trapped, or even thinks she is. 
Ken and Jane are a case in point.   They got their dog Star – a “Formosan Mountain Dog” - from a rescue that brings in dogs from Taiwan.   Members of the organization found Star, as well as several other dogs, on the streets of a town, where they had been living for generations.  Star was about five months old when she was transported to the US, after having chosen by Ken and Jane from a photograph.  There was no transition at the rescue site in the US to see what she was like – her new owners picked her up at the airport, essentially frozen in fear in the back of a small kennel.   They brought her to their apartment in San Francisco, and waited for her to thaw a bit.   For the first three weeks, she more or less lived in her crate, which was left open.  She would come out to eat, find a spot to eliminate, and race back to her crate.  After three weeks or so, she fell deeply in love with Ken and Jane, and they breathed a sigh of relief.  She would cuddle and play, so they thought the worst was over.  They started the process of house training, and began walking her.  This was problematic, unfortunately, as she had no idea what a leash was, and fought the equipment every time they put it on her.  To her, it was a trap.  She refused to eliminate outside.  She tried to hide from all strangers, and she would snap, wide eyed, at anyone who attempted to pet her. 
Over the next several months, Star improved – marginally.  Or it could be that Ken and Jane just got used to her behavior.  She still hated walks, and was terrified of people.  Worse yet, she growled when people came to visit, and was actively aggressive towards children, which was unfortunate, since the couple was expecting.
During our initial consultation, Star refused to come out of the crate.  She pinned herself to the back wall, and growled ferociously when she saw any movement.   This was not good.
When we take dogs from their natural environment – be it a street in Mexico or a reservation in Arizona – we are not necessarily doing them a service, at least from their point of view.  They know their homeland – they can predict what will happen next.   But - and this is important -  neither dogs nor humans like to be surprised.  It is not pleasurable, and it can be very frightening.   When you move a dog from the known to the unknown, particularly after their primary socialization period comes to an end (around five months), you may well be condemning them to a life full of surprises.  Rather than face that, many dogs will become more comfortable in their immediate surroundings, and refuse to investigate the rest of the world.  In fact, sometimes they will try to drive the outside world away by barking and lunging. 
Domestication is a process which requires participation by both species in order to be successful. During this process, dogs must be handled by humans; they must become habituated to our homes, yards, noises, sights and customs.   If they’re not, the process isn’t complete.  Dogs raised without human interactions can adjust well sometimes; more often they can only adjust to a point; and some cannot adjust at all. 
What happened to Star?   Well, the young couple tried to desensitize her to San Francisco, to rehabilitate her.  But you can’t rehabilitate an animal who has not been “habilitated” in the first place!  She was missing the last piece of domestication – actually living with people.   She was like a chipmunk at a park – she could cope with some proximity, she would take food from strangers (at arm’s length), but could not allow touch from anyone other than “her” people.  Eventually, she bit someone who was trying to pet her.  Jane and Ken decided it was not fair to them or her to keep her, and she was returned to the rescue; her ultimate fate is not known.
I don't want to give the impression that rescues who bring in dogs from other countries are not providing a wonderful service.  That’s not the case.  I do, however, think that more care should be taken when vetting new adopters and evaluating incoming animals, so that appropriate matches can be made.  This is true for all shelters, rescues and, for that matter, breeders!
Which brings us to a very important question.  Were they right to stop trying with Star?  It's very easy to pass judgement on an owner who decides to return, re-home, or perhaps even euthanize a dog.  But this is never a simple question, as there are many other legitimate reasons why an owner might decide to make an otherwise unpalatable decision.     
  • Two dogs in the home might be fighting
  • A new dog may be trying to kill a resident cat
  • A dog might hate a new baby in the home
  • The dog may not be able to cope in the environment
  • The dog might fear one of the family members
  • One of the family members may fear or hate the dog
These are all problems that can be worked on, and you may see some progress; perhaps not enough.   It’s easy to criticize, to second guess, or to think we would do better, but that’s not actually relevant.    Ultimately the choice comes down to quality of life, and the only people who can make that judgment call are the ones who live with the dog.  
If you or someone you know would like a consultation, or to see a topic covered in this newsletter, or if you have expressive dog photo's you might like us to use, please email
Trish King
Tricia Breen

Art by Robin King
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