July 8, 2011

We Asked - You Answered!

"Do you think prong and shock collars have a place in today's dog training, or are effective tools for pit bull-type dogs?"

Jaynine Howard
 There is much controversy on what discipline is and what abuse is. This is a heated topic for parents and dog owners. No one wants to be around the unruly child or the ill mannered dog. But, where do you draw the line on whether it is discipline or abuse?

I presently do not use a bark collar or one of the wireless fences that requires the use of a collar that can shock or zap a dog if he or she barks or gets too close to the fence. Prior to owning a dog I thought they were cruel and inhumane. I would never have considered owning one. But, now that I am a dog owner the thought has crossed my mind for several reasons.

Let’s first discuss the bark collar. I know many people that have successfully used the bark collar on the lowest setting to stop unwanted barking. They only used the collar active a few times. When the dog returns to the bad habit of barking the owner will put back on the collar but not activated and the dog will stop the unwanted behavior. Through the use of conditioning and association the unwanted behavior is stopped. When a dog stops barking everyone in the household and the neighborhood are happy. Teaching a dog manners and curtailing nuisance barking is a social responsibility. I would rather not hear a dog bark and see him or her wearing the bark collar than to see the dog in a shelter or homeless because the pet owner and the neighbors could not stop the barking using other behavior modification methods.

Now the invisible fence also at first seemed a bit harsh. But, now that I am a pet owner the price of installing a fence is not in my budget. The invisible fences are not cheap either. However, they are an alternative to keeping the dog indoors all day. Dogs need fresh air and exercise. They enjoy lying in the sun soaking up the rays. I think a dog’s quality of life improves when given the opportunity to run outside and enjoy the fresh air without having to be on a leash all the time.

Dog owners need to be responsible. If that means that the behavior modification technique used to invoke the appropriate or desired behavior is through the administration of shock then I vote it in its favor. I would rather see a disciplined dog wearing a shock collar than a dog sitting unwanted in a shelter or running loose as a stray or worse being beat or kicked in an attempt to discipline the dog. Used in moderation the shock collar can be a beneficial tool to training a dog and allowing it to roam outside within limits without having to be on a leash.

We Asked - You Answered!

"Do you think prong and shock collars have a place in today's dog training, or are effective tools for pit bull-type dogs?"

Shana Markwis
 Prong and shock collars are a controversial topic in the animal world, as the interpretation among strangers, bystanders and family can vary. At a glance, your dog might be considered dangerous, out of control or possibly even a victim of animal abuse or dog fighting. Are the double-take stares and whispers as you pass by worth these intense and harsh-looking collars?

It is common knowledge that positive reinforcement is the best tool to modify behavior in animals. Dogs, especially pitbulls, are people pleasers that want to be encouraged, therefore positive interactions are key. However, in a situation where your dog has left you exhausting all known techniques, prong and shock collars may be useful when used correctly. They are a tool, and dependent upon the user, can be helpful or abusive. Fully understanding the tool you are about to impart on your dog is essential. Put that shock collar around your neck. Are you scared? Then maybe this isn't the tool for you or your dog. Put the prong collar around your neck and let a family member lead you around, giving you corrections as they feel necessary. Angry yet? It is insensitive to think that you can use a tool on your dog, that can be downright dangerous if used incorrectly, without knowing exactly how it feels. You better know how Shock Level 1 feels, and before you press Shock Level 5 on Fido, you better know how that feels, too. Prong and shock collars have a badrap, but let's be honest, how did that reputation get there? Through bias media, the uneducated public and irresponsible owners. Sound like any other reputations we know of?

Volunteer Spotlight: Megan Ward

Currently, I am seventeen, I just graduated from the Hawbridge School, and I am entering college at ACC as a jumping off point for my animal career. I love animals (I have nine of them) especially pit bulls. They are my life.

I cannot say that my involvement with bully breeds was at all predicted. I always felt sorry for the bullies that I saw on the news, and on those animal cop shows, and it always sickened me the way they rarely tell you what became of them, because nothing became of them. They were euthanized and it wasn’t fair. That, however, was about the extent of my concern for pit bulls. I had no idea to what extent this breed was abused, misunderstood, and discriminated against. That all changed when I found Natalia.

She was a tiny, thin, goofy looking pit bull that I ran across on a walk. The man who owned her was a back yard breeder, who had tried numerous times to dump her on the side of the road, only to find that she would make her way back. She was twenty-five pounds, and her skin was covered in staff infection and mange. I told the man to give me three days to find a rescue that would take her in. I contacted rescues all over the state, and in surrounding states, only to find that they were all past their limit with dogs. Meanwhile, I fought with my parents to let me take her in. On the last of my three days, I was forced to pick her up. My last call was to Guilford County Animal Shelter. The words I would hear next would be stuck in my head forever. “We don’t take in pit bulls. If you bring her here we will put her down.” After that, I named the dog Natalia and she was safe with me.

As Natalia started her new life with me, I began to notice how prejudiced some people were against pit bulls. It hurt me to see parents tell their kids “no” when they wanted to pet Natalia. “thats a mean doggy” one person said. Once I was even cussed out by a woman at a park for letting Natalia sniff her dog. I then began to learn about BSL laws, where family dogs are ripped from their homes and killed.Through my love and passion for Natalia, I wanted to become involved in helping pit bulls. And I wanted to do it through Natalia. I enrolled her in “Basic Obedience for Bully Breeds” at Paws4ever, taught by Amanda Liston, president of “Carolina Care Bullies”. Amanda and Terry helped shy little Natalia flourish, and they helped me become a better pit bull owner and advocate. Thanks to them, Natalia is attending parties, events, and is getting along with everyone. Everywhere she goes, she leaves a lasting impression on the people she meets. She is becoming a true breed ambassador! We are going for her Canine Good Citizen soon! I was so motivated by Amanda and Terry’s work (and the book, “The Lost Dogs”) that it hit me. “Thats what I want to do with my life! I want to rescue pit bulls!”

So now I have joined them as a volunteer. Being a volunteer for CCB not only shows me first-hand what it takes to run a rescue, but it also forces me to open up and work with people. This has always been a struggle for me, due to Asperger’s Syndrome.

It just makes no sense to me how such a loyal, sweet dog breed with such a great personality could be so misunderstood, and persecuted. I just hope one day I can make a difference. I suppose if I make as big of a difference as CCB has so far, I’m doing pretty great.

July 7, 2011

Featured Happy Ending: Bodie

Bodie makes you feel contented and secure, just being near him. My college-aged daughter Natalie, our other two dogs, and two cats adore him. Friends and relatives ask about him. A few weeks ago, my eight year-old nephew, Henry, met him and
said he loves Bodie and wants "to go on adventures with him every day." Now, when we skype with Henry, we have to include Bodie. Bodie loves kids too. When we have kid visitors, he is in heaven.
Strangers pat his head and say, "Hey Boy!"

Bodie looks at me often to see that I think about a situation. It's a quick, endearing glance. He knew very few words in the beginning, but now understands a lot. His intelligence is astounding! He has a good sense of humor, and, now that he trusts us, he loves the silly games we play. If he does something that we don't like, we just tell him to stop, and he does. Skilled at diffusing a situation, Bodie is the perfect friend for our other pit mix, Violet, who is younger and can sometimes be a bit bossy.

Bodie is very strong and seemingly spring-loaded. When the leashes come out, it's hard for him to be polite. He's a very physical guy, and it takes a strong person to handle him when he gets excited and forgets not to pull when he sees a squirrel. We're working on that.

Bodie loves sitting in the front yard while I work in the garden. He is a great companion for errands or to meet a friend at an outdoor cafe. When we're leaving the house, he places himself in a strategic position near the door, in hopes of being asked to go along. When we can't take him, he's crestfallen!

Bodie's success story helps me forget that he probably spent his first two years chained, until his family moved away and abandoned him. The family moving was the best thing that could have happened to him because after that things got better. Compassionate people intervened and made sure that Bodie was taken care of, starting with a good Samaritan neighbor whose good deed led to Carolina Care Bullies (CCB). Volunteer Renee fostered Bodie. In the beginning he was afraid to even cross the threshold into her house.

I met Bodie in Chapel Hill when attending a CCB adoption event to see "Poca," a puppy (who we adopted a few weeks later). Poca wasn't there that day, so I took the opportunity to learn more about pit bulls, and talked to Renee. I was actually a little afraid of Bodie because he was so still and quiet. He looked unhappy to be there, but compliant. When I took him for a walk outside, he was stiff. All he wanted to do was get back to Renee. After only spending five minutes with him, something about him seared into my heart. I didn't know what it was, because he showed no affection and revealed almost no personality.

Two months later, I still couldn't stop thinking about Bodie. He just got to me. I surprised myself and asked to adopt him. By this time my daughter, Natalie, was back at college, and she was surprised when I signed her birthday card with all of our names, including Bodie's. She had never even met him.
On his first day at our house I gave the dogs a great one-hour walk in the woods. After arriving at home, Bodie ran up and gave me a quick little thank you kiss. It didn't take long for him to get used to the good life, but he is grateful every day and often gives thank you kisses. For the first whole week he pulled me out to the spot in front of our house where Renee said goodbye, to look for her. He really loved her, which endeared me him even more. He and Natalie are fast friends; Bodie jumps into her bed every day to snuggle and say good morning.

We are so thankful to the unnamed good Samaritan and especially to all the people at CCB that made it possible for Bodie to live a happy life, and for us to share our time together! All the work and compassion that it takes to do what CCB does is truly meaningful. We are smitten, and thankful that Bodie brings so much sweetness, fun and love to our family!

Featured Adopt-a-Bull: Zorro

Zorro is an eleven month old pit bull/boxer mix puppy. Zorro is a very sweet and gentle boy. He loves to play in the yard with his foster siblings. He gets along with male/female dogs and size doesn’t matter. He is a cuddler and thinks like many big dogs that he is small and wants to be a lap dog. Zorro has excellent dog manners and knows how to properly introduce himself to new dogs. He knows the commands sit, stay, wait, leave it, off, down, look at me. He is learning to shake. His current favorite toy is the swimming pool in the backyard, he loves to splash around biting the water and lays in it to cool off. He loves to play fetch and will carry a ball around in his mouth for hours. He loves to chew on his kong and play tug-of-war with the rope toys.

Read more about me here.