Where's the Dog Whisperer when you need him?

NOTE: We are having some technical difficulties, as we slowly make the shift from Blogger to Wordpress. We are hopefully moving there soon, just as quickly as we can get it ready. Until then, well, sorry for some Blogger blips as we import data over to WordPress. But, prepare to be dazzled! Anyway, bear with us. Thanks. The pet saga continues. To recap, we used to have a dog. He bit a child. He's dead now. We used to have a bird. She flew into the toilet. She's dead now, too. We still have a snake. He's not dead. In fact, he's doing rather well. He's really rather pretty, but cuddly, not so much. School has started for everybody on the planet except us, so, to divert my small son from gouging out large pieces of his wall in his bedroom out of sheer boredom, we drove to the Humane Society yesterday, just to see what they had, and to get some good dog petting therapy time in. Nothing lifts the spirits like dog slobber and the stale smell of urine, I always say. I was actually impressed with the quality of the canines they had at this shelter. Most of the mutts were pretty calm, and J was completely charmed when he commanded a very soft looking pit bull to "SIT!", and the cur obliged. Not that I'm thinking about getting a pit bull, mind you, but certainly the whole experience put an extra confidence in my 4 year old's strut, which is pretty dang cute, if I do say so myself. We asked the overworked, underpaid, doggie-hair covered staff to spring some of the dogs from their cages so we could play with them and see if they would make a good family pet, or if they were really just the cast-offs for the part of Cujo. We've done this several times before (like I said, doggy therapy never misses), but this time we actually found a dog worth looking at again. He was a black lab, pure-bred, and had been given up by his family because he was a gift, given to them by somebody who clearly didn't know them very well. And this is just a general FYI: people don't like to be given gifts that require yet another reason to be cleaning up stinky poop all day. Seriously, people, give a goldfish instead. Or, better yet, if you are really committed to the animal theme, just send gummi bears. While playing with this rambunctious dog, who was dubbed "Ribs", I pulled out my best Dog Whisperer techniques, complete with claiming a certain bench for my son, employing the ever effective "shhhht", and concentrating on emanenting calm, assertive energy. I'm telling you, this dog went from jumping maniac to calm, submissive playmate who sat happily at the foot of my son's bench, chewing on his ball. Perfect. I went home, fed my son, and then called DH to meet me back at the shelter to look at this dog again. DH checked his profile out online, and agreed to meet me there. We pulled up, and just as we were going in, Ribs was coming out. He was walking his new owner. "Hey, are you adopting Ribs?" I asked. "Yep, I'm taking him home," his new owner said, a large woman who clearly had no control over this dog. He was straining at the leash, pulling at her and his collar, choking so much he sounded like he was coughing up a hairball. One of the hair covered staff volunteered to assist her with Ribs, and the two of them left the shelter, Ribs pulling all the way. It was pathetic. Another woman, who had been 'browsing' with me, if you will, said, "You don't want that dog. WAY too hyper. Was all over the place with that woman. He would definitely knock over your child." But, you see, I have been educated in the Whisperer's Ways. And he didn't knock over J when we were in the play yard. I knew that Ribs would be just fine with us, after we had established some ground rules and some authority. Besides, he was a lab. Labs live to please. J started to cry when we saw Ribs leave, asking why we couldn't take our dog home today. And DH was just not impressed with any of the other dogs. We've decided that we are retriever people, and that dogs who won't fetch a ball for you just aren't true canines. We left, stinky and hair-covered as the staff, but without a dog. So much for dog therapy. Maybe it's all for the best. After all, we have had some lousy luck with dogs, and, really, pets in general. And according to The Whisperer, it's our fault. Maybe we just weren't meant to be pet owners. And we probably have quite a bit to make up for our previous pet owner sins. I think I'll go eat some gummi bears.


Blogger Tammy and Parker said...

Oh, what a disappointment. I was hoping that your ending would include you going home with Ribs. But, as much as I hate to say this, you may want to leave your name and number at that shelter in case Ribs comes back......especially if this gal couldn't control him.

And I promise, Labs bring your balls back too. =)

9/07/2006 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Brony said...

If you find him let me know. Boy my one dog is on a very short leash with me right now:
digging, barking at people on walks, chewing, and now maliciously fighting with our other dog.

As if kids aren’t enough.

I say try again. I didn’t think we were meant to be pet owners either, but eventually it is bound to work out.

There is a dog out there with your family name, I promise.

9/07/2006 02:37:00 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I have a love/hate relationship with the animal shelter! I'm just one of those people that go in there and want all of the animals and feel guilty when I leave empty handed! They all look at you like "take me, take me"! And then they look all sad when you pass them up! :( See, I LOVE the animals and going in there to check them out but HATE leaving without them!

Sorry about Ribs! I'm sure he would've rather gone home with you guys too!

9/07/2006 02:38:00 AM  
Blogger Vada said...

I don't go to animal shelters. I would leave with a pet. I know this. I am just way too much of a sucker. And I haven't had a pet since I graduated high school and moved out of my parents' house, and I miss it. The only time I've been to a shelter since then was when I went to meet the new dog my parents were getting. The only thing that made me safe then was that my mom was leaving with a pet (who could be at least sort of mine), and the fact that I couldn't take a pet home with me on my cross-country plane trip.

Someday I will again go to an animal shelter. I will love it, and I will leave with a pet. I've even managed to convince my husband (who never intended to be a pet owner) that this is okay. I think it's four years of saying, "We will have a dog," so convincingly that even he has come to believe it. But with a 20-month-old and a 2-month-old, now is not the time to bring home yet another creature I have to take care of and clean up after. Maybe in a year or two.

Sorry to hear you didn't get your dog. Hopefully you'll find another great one.

9/07/2006 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...


The dog whisperer has a book. It's called Cesar's Way. You should really check it out - it would help immensely with all those problems you talk about - it will help you with the reasons he's barking, etc. - it sounds like you just have a dominant dog who needs to know you are the leader!

Cesar Millan is the author. Your library should have it. He also has videos.

9/07/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got my dog from the shelter - not one of those nice no-kill shelters either. From the county pound where he was marked to be euthanized. He was a year old (hes a oh so cute blonde short hair pony-style chihuahua). He had been abused and abandoned and was very very scared. He is the cutest dog ever now, even if he trys to scare off all new people who come to the house (chihuahuas are very protective). He loves playing fetch. If we had a yard, I would have gone home with every dog from the pound.

9/07/2006 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

How disappointing!

9/07/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous tracy m said...

How much of a disappointment for J and your family! I hate going to the shelter- mostly because I know so many of the animals are going to end up euthanized, and I want to take them all home- and my track record with pets is worse than yours...

So, much like houseplants, I spare the creatures my being their mama. Kids, I'm good. Pets and plants, not so much.

9/07/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got our beautiful little girl from the shelter after she'd been abused and shot...yes, shot...by her previous owner. The thing is, she is absolutely the sweetest dog you ever met. She truly enriches my husband and my lives in immeasurable ways. I'm a firm believer in the fact that the key to keeping a dog happy and thus the family happy - especially a dog like a lab or a german shorthaired pointer (which my little girl is) is to give the dog the exercise it deserves. So many people I know have "active" breeds that they leave in the house all day and then get upset that the dog has chewed through half the pillows in the house and eaten a hole in the couch. But by taking our girl out for runs and long walks and a weekly visit to a huge dog park near us keeps her happy AND too tired to destroy anything in our house.

H - I hope you do get a dog when it's the right dog for you and your family (and, equally as important, you're the right family for the dog). When the match is right it's a beautiful relationship. Plus, not only does it give J a great constant companion (my girlhood dog knew all my deepest darkest secrets and was always there to let me cry in her fur) but is also a great way to teach more responsibility such as feedings, water, etc.

9/07/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I couldn't agree more. And the Dog Whisperer absolutely says that the most important thing is exercise for your dog, and that you can not have a balanced dog without lots and lots of exercise. Now, I do know some dogs that are the biggest cough potatoes around and are still the sweetest things, but I think as a general rule, you do have to exercise the crap out of your dog so they don't exhibit unappealing behaviors. Also, Cesar Millan says that most dogs can be balanced through exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order, no matter what breed or past experience. Dogs do not sit around brooding about their past, nor do they sit around planning how to be your leader or how they are going to attack that little girl down the street tomorrow. They completely live in the moment, and if their lives are currently intertwined with a good leader, they are balanced, calm, and submissive. Everything you could want in a pet. That's his take on it, anyway. I hope he's right, because so far, we ain't doin' so hot with rescue shelter dogs. I hope using his techniques and philosphy will help us get a good pet someday.

9/08/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Hot Texas Mama said...

Aw. Bummer.

Just make sure you do research. A good site is dogbreedinfo.com. It even shows you which breeds are good for kids. Labs are supposedly the #1 dog in America. They are often very active and jump up. They also often need a constant firm hand with discipline--they love companionship but have a mind of their own! And they SHED A LOT. Golden retriever are a little bit more of people pleasers. We have a labradoodle. He's very good, but they are expensive!

9/08/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

Cesar Milan does have some good techniques, but I'd advise any dog owner or would-be owner to look into positive dog training, aka "Clicker Training" to help their dogs learn how to behave. I especially recommend "Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson & "The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller. FANTASTIC books, both of them. My new dog was sitting enthusiastically and frequently within 3 days of brining him home from the city animal shelter.

The New York Times had an article a while back about Cesar Milan, and mentioned how a number of his ideas (particularly about dominance) are quite outdated and have been discarded by most reputable trainers. That said, I've only watched a few episodes, and haven't seen anything that was a huge red flag to me. But things like the "alpha rollover" are really bad ideas, and a good way to get bitten.

And, true to my character as the defender of the misunderstood animal, you should check out my pit bull on my blog. And guess what? He retrieves, too. His new favorite exercise is soccer, so I guess I'm going to be getting in shape, too. ;o)

Brony, is he an inside dog? Does he have plenty of chew toys? I highly recommend Kongs stuffed with goodies. They'll keep dogs occupied for quite sometime, even longer if you freeze them.

9/10/2006 01:14:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Millan defends his use of the alpha rollover in his book. He talks about the controversy, and why he feel it is effective.

Also, he doesn't disagree with clicker training, or anything else you want to do to get your dog to do tricks. But his point and his philosphy is that dogs who can do tricks can still be unbalanced dogs, and that the overall energy of the pack is what will ultimately determine your dog's personality. Case in point--my last dog could sit, stay, jump over a barrier, come, shake, and even crawl. He was banned from the dining room/living room area, and never entered them while we were there. I taught him all of these things, and yet he still bit a small child at the playground. Bottom line--a dog who will perform for you does not necessarily a balanced dog make.

9/10/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

I can't access the full article anymore, but here's the link: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0612FE355A0C728FDDA10894DE404482

All I'm saying is to explore other training philosophies. When many of the current trainers (very successful in training working dogs, pets, etc) disagree with his techniques, it seems worth a look to me. Just because someone writes books and has a TV show doesn't make them the expert they might claim to be. That said, I already mentioned that the few episodes of his show that I watched, I didn't see anything that struck me as really bad advice. And I 100% agree that most dogs need A LOT more exercise.

So, I was just suggesting investigating other techniques as well (always a good idea no matter what the subject). I've not read his books, but I may check them out if the library has them so I can form my own informed opinion.

9/10/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even a dog who is submissive to you might bite a child-- especially if he fears children, or has body handling issues, or resource guards... All of those things can be, and need to be, dealt with separately from the dog's relationship with you. I would also add, speaking as a dog trainer with more than 25 years experience, and whose caseload is about 60% aggression cases, that the best way to deal with those issues is with positive reinforcement. Force is not the best way to demonstrate leadership, and leadership does not control everything about a dog’s behavior. If the dog fears children, he needs to be taught to be comfortable with them,-- not to have greater respect for you. An analogy—if you are scared of something—say flying, is the solution to respect your husband more? To respect your boss more? No—clearly your respect for people in your life and your fears have little or nothing g to do with one another!

11/19/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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