Saturday, November 8, 2008

Presidents, Dogs and The Right Stuff

There has been so much talk recently about the president elect's plan to get a puppy for his daughters, and the current president's dog biting a reporter. I promised myself I wouldn't add to the white noise of discussion and yet, here I am. I think it's because I'm frustrated by both situations.

Let's start with the current administration. There's no doubt in my mind that President George and Laura Bush love their Scotties. I don't know how the dogs were trained but I have my suspicions. There were at least two factors coming into play when dog teeth met reporter's hand. First and foremost, it's imperative that everyone know how to properly approach a dog. Never, ever swoop down on a dog and shove your hand at him. This simply isn't prudent. The dog-loving reporter was not dog-savvy. No dog likes anyone to swoop down on him. And you should never reach out to a strange dog. Move slowly. Get down to the dog's level if possible. Always present a strange dog with your closed hand and let him sniff your knuckles. And before you even think about doing any of that, ask if you may pat the dog. The dog's owner or handler will be able to tell you if that's a good idea. You, too, can avoid being bitten.

Add to this the dog breed. The Scottish Terrier is pretty well known for being "dour." Terriers are feisty dogs and the Scottie is no exception. He is, perhaps, not the best choice for a dog who is going to be greeting strangers. Any dog would be hard-pressed to be warm and welcoming all the time when being approached incorrectly by strangers, or even by people he knows. Put the huge press corp on the lawn with cameras, etc. and you have an accident waiting to happen.

Now we have a President Elect who has promised his children a puppy. One child is allergic to dogs and he's saying that he can get a "hypoallergenic" dog. Uh, sorry. There's no such thing and whoever told him this was doing his family and the potential new four-legged family member a great disservice. Dogs who have hair, not fur, are far less likely to cause a problem however the problem lies with the dander, not the hair or fur. To bring home a puppy and then discover that the child is allergic is going to cause a problem not just for the family but for the puppy as well who will be uprooted from his original home and then will be a likely candidate for rehoming after he washes out as First Pet.

Then there was that horrible moment when Obama stated that it wouldn't be a small dog because he wouldn't walk a small dog. Let me state unequivocally that I do not recommend Toy dogs for homes with children despite the plaintive voice of one of the Obama daughters mentioning a "Yorkshire." It's seldom a good match. I say that as someone whose area of expertise is Toy and Small dogs. But the statement that he wouldn't walk a small dog? I have often said, and I'm not the first to say it, that it takes a big man to walk a little dog, is true. It takes a man who is secure in his masculinity, is sure of himself as a person to care only that he has a dog he loves who loves him and those he loves. Size doesn't matter to such men. For those who won't walk a small dog, well, I have said before that those people have a problem that I can't handle.

An issue that is important for every dog, whether in the White House or your house, is training along with socialization. All dogs and puppies must be properly socialized. Crucial to the way in which the dog or puppy will respond to those around him is the way in which he's trained. Aggression begets aggression and training a dog with old, aversive methods will only come back to bite you. Literally. Some of those things may work in the short term but sooner or later the dog will react. Operant conditioning is ideal. Even a child can do it. Literally. And this would be the ideal way to get the children involved with their new dog.

So, how to choose that dog or puppy? A shelter dog would be right for most families but there's less of a chance of finding one who won't cause allergy problems. Better is to find a breed that the child can tolerate and then go to Breed Rescue for that specific breed and give a forever home to a dog who deserves a second chance, who may have been thrown away by his first owner for any one of a myriad of stupid reasons. Whatever they do, I hope for the sake of the dog and the children that the commitment is for the dog's lifetime. And doing it right is having the right stuff.

6 comments:

Montana said...

great post!!!

Ark Lady said...

You know I wrote about Presidential Pets this week but had all the posts scheduled for the week even before Obama mentioned the puppy.

Sometimes you can't avoid talking about a topic because there is additional info to share.

I'm glad to see you outlined the mistakes and went more in depth into the issue of the reporter.

I put the live feed video online and then ranted a bit.

Nice job as always!

Darlene said...

Thanks, Montana and Ark Lady. I truly appreciate your feedback.

Anonymous said...

Darlene...well spoken about Scotties and dogs in general.
Being a Greyhound advocate, with Greyhound's hair not shedding and also the dander looking slim, Greyhounds are my first choice for several reasons.
They are from Africa, originally, and what better moment than to celebrate a dog totally misunderstood in the modern era and have a connection with the President of the USA? With Greyhound Racetracks closing everywhere due to enormous pressures of cruelty , overbreeding, executions, etc, and now the economy being absolutely dismal, there are thousands that need homes and so many Rescues permitting a long and careful process of adoptions according to personalities, other canines in the families etc. , what an immense uplifting of this breed should Obama consider this one!
The dog is well known for its very sweet temperament and it is big enough to exercise a President in need of relaxing and blowing off steam. Rumor has it that they are thinking of two, so perhaps a Greyhound for Obama and Michelle and another of a different sort for the responsible girls.
Whatever they choose, it can only be a good thing as the family seems well-disciplined, wanting to share a home with a survivor, and reflective every moment of the day.
We are already better-loved world-wide with Obama. Perhaps Rescued dogs will be the next in line.

Anonymous said...

Darlene...well spoken about Scotties and dogs in general.
Being a Greyhound advocate, with Greyhound's hair not shedding and also the dander looking slim, Greyhounds are my first choice for several reasons.
They are from Africa, originally, and what better moment than to celebrate a dog totally misunderstood in the modern era and have a connection with the President of the USA? With Greyhound Racetracks closing everywhere due to enormous pressures of cruelty , overbreeding, executions, etc, and now the economy being absolutely dismal, there are thousands that need homes and so many Rescues permitting a long and careful process of adoptions according to personalities, other canines in the families etc. , what an immense uplifting of this breed should Obama consider this one!
The dog is well known for its very sweet temperament and it is big enough to exercise a President in need of relaxing and blowing off steam. Rumor has it that they are thinking of two, so perhaps a Greyhound for Obama and Michelle and another of a different sort for the responsible girls.
Whatever they choose, it can only be a good thing as the family seems well-disciplined, wanting to share a home with a survivor, and reflective every moment of the day.
We are already better-loved world-wide with Obama. Perhaps Rescued dogs will be the next in line.

Charlotte Wagner said...

Great entry! It's funny, I am proud to have a man who will stick by his toy dog. We have a Toy Manchester Terrier, and my boyfriend is so nuts about our little one, that he insists on walking her. Also, it's a total chick magnet when we're out, all these people come up with their "ooooohs" and "ahhhhs" at the little one.

I hope the Obama's chose positive methods as well. Aversive based methods suppress behavior, and often detrimentally damages the human / canine bond. Let's hope they don't get sucked into the alpha / dominance / take charge nonsense.

As for Barney - I was appalled to hear one of the background reporter's shout "he's been grumpy all day" ... then why take the poor dog out? I hope people learn from these instances and not just laugh it off - this dog was very uncomfterable.