Posts Tagged ‘Dog Training’

The Future of Animal Rescue

Eight years ago, when I joined the Washington Animal Rescue League as medical director, I never thought I would end up in the commercial real estate business. Now, eight years and a new decade later, that’s exactly where a great deal of my time has been spent. Last week, the League embarked on the largest project we’ve ever taken on—we became the proud owners of the 42,000-square-foot property adjacent to our shelter, in which we plan to build the future of animal rescue.

We won’t get there next month, or next year, or in the immediate few years after that, but we’re on the way.

As the League nears its centennial in 2014, we will begin a capital campaign to build the rehabilitation facility that homeless animals so desperately need. It will become the National Rehabilitation Center for Animals.  And even more than that.  As we’ve done so many times in the past, we’ll be building a new future both for animals in our own community, and for animals suffering from the abuses of hoarders, dog fighters, and puppy mill operators all over the country. 

And, given the lessons this turbulent spring taught us, the Center will also become a safe haven for the tragic animal victims of the more and more frequent natural disasters around the country.

But our primary focus will always be on our own community. We know we have work to do right here in our own backyard.  We must ensure that we will still—and forever—be able to support the local community: animal guardians in our own neighborhoods, as well as partner shelters in the area who may need our assistance.  We want them to know that we will always be here to help them with overcrowding and medical assistance.

The same goes for our low-income veterinary clients. The new Center will allow us to offer more much-needed low-cost services for the local community. Something that is so desperately needed, especially with an economy that seems to refuse to improve.

Part one of our plan will be to move and expand some administrative and training programs into the south side of the building. At the same time, we will be leasing out the remainder of the building to cover the mortgage. This will give us time to raise the funds to create the National Rehabilitation Center for Animals. And to continue our work right here at the shelter we’re already so proud of.

If someone asked me, “Is this the best time to plan an expansion?” I would answer with an emphatic “yes,” in spite of the economy.  Because we so urgently need it. Is it the easiest time? Of course not. But that has never been a good reason not to move forward.

A year ago we had a choice: remain the same and offer as much as we can to as many as we can, all the time knowing there are thousands more out there who also need our help. Or grow and build a facility that can actually help solve the most pressing problems in animal welfare and veterinary medicine, offering medical and behavioral help and homes to the most disenfranchised in the nation. We chose the latter.

Last week we got the keys to our future. I hope you’ll be interested in hearing how the project is going.  Call or email me for details or for a tour of the future of animal rescue. It’s now right next door.

Dog Training at the League

The League offers a range of positive reinforcement dog training classes—everything from basic manners to agility skills—for all dogs. Each 6-week-long course tuition is deliberately kept affordable at $150 to encourage people to train their dogs using the most modern, humane, and effective methods. Our trainers are also dedicated to our adoptable dogs and work with them on basic obedience—some of the dogs have been AKC CGC certified! All of our dog training classes are taught by the League’s CPDT-certified trainers, and the maximum class size is 7-8, meaning you and your dog will get professional, individual attention throughout each course.

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City Sidewalks and Dog 101

I was walking my two dogs on East Capital Street last week when a jogger, large Labrador in hand, ran right in between me and the person I was talking to. Literally. I was astonished.  Not that it makes any difference, but I don’t have small dogs. Or unintimidating dogs. One is a 110-pound German shepherd, and the other a small-ish, but still substantial, pit bull. Nothing transpired, except my chin dropping nearly to the sidewalk in surprise. Clearly both dogs combined had more intelligence than this jogger.

We hear many tragic cases of dog interactions going badly. The truth is though, it’s not always, or even usually, the dogs’ fault. Dogs are dogs. We are humans. We’re supposed to know better. Common sense goes a long way.

Dogs enjoy training

So here’s my living-successfully-with-your-dog lesson 101. In five easy steps. (1) The first is to believe in reality. Some dogs just don’t like other dogs. Or people. And some are, as we like to say “reactive,” which means their buttons get pushed whenever they see another dog, or person, or squirrel, or falling leaf. It’s their nature.

(2) The second rule is that some dogs don’t do very well at the dog park, the least manageable places to secure your dog from anything other than cars. To many dogs, a dog park is a big, bad cocktail party, where everyone is drunk and trying to grab the last tray of pigs-in-a-blanket. It’s not pretty.

(3) Rule number 3 is that yes, you do have to do some training. All dogs benefit from this. And they enjoy it. Dogs, like all of us, need boundaries to be successful in our world. Go to a positive, Certified Pet Dog Trainer. And bribe, bribe, bribe. About three-quarters of a dog’s brain is devoted to smell and taste! Food is magic. And it works for training. You should take every aversive training tool, prong collar, electric collar (the worst!), and choke chain, and place them under your right rear car wheel and drive over them. Twice. For reactive dogs, these only make things worse.  For other dogs, they’re just cruel.

(4) Get control of yourself, and your dog.  If you have trouble exercising control, by all means keep your dog on a leash. And not those retractable leashes. They do the opposite of what a leash is supposed to do. When you need to get your pup back in a hurry, you’re just kidding yourself if you think you can do this with the magic touch of a button.  And for heaven’s sake, get a harness or gentle leader, if your dog becomes a whirling dervish in a neck collar. They make all the difference in the world.

(5) And finally, be a human. We have an obligation to control our dogs. Don’t run smilingly to meet the neighbor’s dogs if you’re not sure what the neighbors dogs are like. Assume that no dog is a bomb-proof, safe hound in a city. And don’t run your dogs through a group of other dogs on leash, or kids chalking in a hop scotch course on the sidewalk. Cross to the other side if you can. We’ll take turns.

Keep control of your dog. Just because your dog lives to meet other dogs, that doesn’t mean other dogs want to meet yours. Be safe. And keep your dog safe. That means good parenting, some common sense, boundaries, and a plastic bag. And ask first before approaching a human and his dog. We’re all just trying to get our pups safely walked and home before dinner, too.