DEAR DR. FOX: I wish you would write about something I find shocking: the way some people jerk on their dogs’ leashes when they are out walking them. This must cause some harm to the dogs.
I just wonder how many pets are wrongly disciplined by such people, who probably do not even know how to raise their children. I am a retired grade school teacher, and never forgot to spare the rod and save the child. Same for pets, too! -- J.T., Alexandria, Minnesota
DEAR J.T.: I see this kind of abuse of dogs very rarely, and when I do, I take note of the body language of the owners. We must all control our anger and frustration and not redirect our feelings toward others, hurting them in the process.
Between humans, our feelings can be communicated verbally. Between humans and other animals, it can be done with tone of voice, body language, gestures and facial expressions. Horses respond positively to friendly human faces, and cats and dogs respond to higher-pitched human voices, especially female ones. My wife, Deanna, could control 30 dogs at feeding time at her refuge in India, getting them to stop stealing and fighting over food, with nothing more than a loudly resounding “YO!”
There is never any need to strike or kick or half-strangle any dog to stop some undesired behavior, such as pulling too hard on the leash or jumping up on people. Such dogs simply need to be taught self-control, and that comes with maturity. This calls for owner patience and understanding, plus a dog behavior consultation or two.
Canine handling and education classes of any worth promote positive reinforcement: rewards with treats, petting and/or words of praise. This brings out the best in dogs, while negative reinforcement -- punishing discipline -- can create an anxious biter or a depressed, dispirited canine companion.
Rubbing pups’ noses on spots where they have house-soiled is one such traditional disciplinary action, one that is both cruel and ineffective. Some dogs respond well to aversive clicker-training since it can divert them from doing whatever they should not. But clickers can terrify and confuse sensitive dogs, for whom a loud “NO!” should suffice.
I would like to see the sale of electronic “dog-training” collars, which are used to deliver electric shocks to deter various unacceptable dog behaviors, prohibited. Too many fall into the wrong hands.
When a dog suddenly exhibits some undesired behavior -- such as rubbing the anus on the carpet, snapping/growling when petted in a certain area or failing to respond or come when called -- the animal should not be punished. Rather, they need immediate veterinary attention, without question.
ANIMAL SHELTERS IN CRISIS
Animal shelters across the U.S. are trying to manage a growing number of surrenders amid a staffing shortage without having to resort to euthanasia. Denver Animal Shelter provides spaying and neutering services, as well as free vaccinations, microchips and pet food, and has brought a social worker on board to help pet owners find low-cost care. (Full story: CBS News, Nov. 4)
This is indeed a tragic situation, where we are going back to a “disposable pet” era. Shelter staff are having to euthanize unadopted animals who were surrendered due to lack of finances and people not realizing responsible pet care is not cheap. Find out what the situation is at your local animal shelter and see what you can do to help as a donor, volunteer or foster care provider for surrendered animals.
DEAR DR. FOX: I found this on YouTube: a brief clip of you playing your flute at your wife's (Deanna Krantz’s) refuge in India, and how your rescued dogs responded! Link: youtu.be/Bczu8EjONxY.
I thought your readers might enjoy it. -- B.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR B.K.: I was not aware that this had been posted on YouTube. It was filmed by volunteer Frank Kaesser and shows me playing my flute, which I did every morning at the request of the lead dog of our rescued pack of village dogs in the beautiful Nilgiris area. The dog's name was Dean, and he would whine at me at the breakfast table to come out and play my flute. His pack would howl/sing as I played, and soon, in the distance, other dogs would join in from surrounding villages. I felt this wave of togetherness sweeping across the entire country.
Whatever truth we live by determines the kind of light we give. Dean, his pack, and some 300 other animals at my wife's refuge were all shining because they were free to live in accordance with their natures -- to be true to themselves and express the light of their spirits where they were safe and loved. For more details about her refuge and wildlife conservation, see our book “India’s Animals: Helping the Sacred and the Suffering.”
Our work continues there, and we welcome hearing from would-be donors as we garner funds to support two dedicated veterinarians. These doctors are continuing what we started in 1996: helping care for village and tribal community animals, the health of which is critical for the surrounding endangered wildlife population, including elephants, tigers, panthers and wild dogs/dholes.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)