Old Trainer

August 28, 2013

The Old Trainer: Black dogs are harder for shelters to place

Dear Old Trainer: I just adopted, Bessy, a 5-month old black Lab, from a local rescue group. She is a wonderful dog and is already a part of my life, so I was shocked when they told me the problem they have in finding homes for black dogs. Is that true?
— Leanne, Foster City, California

Answer: Yes. It is a problem at every shelter in the country. They are wonderful dogs, and there is not a single difference between a black dog and any other color, but all shelters are overstocked with black dogs.

No one knows exactly why, although the most common view is that black dogs with black eyes have a harder time projecting their personality.

A shelter where I volunteer has two special "Blackout" weekends a year. They advertise heavily and concentrate on finding homes for black dogs, and I spend extra time training them for the event.

There are several groups working full-time on this problem, Leanne. One, Loup Garou Rescue, is just up the road from you in San Francisco. If you, or other readers, want to help this worthy cause, the website is: http://www.loupgarourescue.org/about-us/

REVIEW OF DOGTV—DOGTV is designed to entertain dogs and keep them from being lonely when left alone. It consists of video segments of dogs running around having a good time, plus a canine version of the old Pong game with an electronic dot bouncing around the screen.

Every so often a human head comes on and gives advice to owners. Not sure why that is supposed to interest dogs. The advice, while earnest, is of dubious value, most of it based on the one mistake common to all bad training advice: projecting human psychology onto dogs.

A trainer — not just any trainer, but one identified as a "popular TV dog trainer," — states she will explain how to cure constant barking, but instead advises you to try and understand WHY your dog is barking. Good luck with that. A "dog therapist" views an untrained dog and opines the dog is "obsessive-compulsive."

Fortunately for dogs the talking head segments are a small part of the overall programming, but it raises the issue of whether the service is for dogs or for owners of dogs.

In my pack there was no doubt. I enjoyed watching the video dogs frolic, but my pack didn’t watch at all, not even one second. I put my dog-cam on top of the TV and recorded the pack while I was gone. Not even a glance at the TV.

Same thing with the sound. I never had a dog pay attention to electronic sound, even when I recorded myself or other dogs in the pack. It just doesn’t sound real to them. So in addition to ignoring the picture, my pack ignored the sound.

But I support anyone who is trying to do something for dogs. If there are dogs out there who will watch DOGTV and not be lonely for their human, then I am all for it. If my dogs are too snooty to watch, that’s their problem.

Pack Rating: Two paws up (mine), twelve paws no opinion.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to: theoldtrainer@gmail.com.

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