I had the pleasure of attending a small social function last night, wherein I got to chat with numerous pet owners about their loving fur kids. I love hearing about other people's pets—what kind of pets, how old they are, their funny behaviors, their *unique* personalities. The majority of those I spoke with shared that they had adopted rescued pets (yay!!!). They would then softly—apologetically, even—follow up with, "...but my cat/dog has 'issues'." I'd smile. And they'd assume that guilty floor-gaze demeanor, like some guilty pet parent, and quickly follow up with how loving/caring/affectionate/(insert other really good quality here) their pet was in every other way!
Pet parents... stop feeling guilty about the trauma your pets carry over from some past experiences that you had no control over. Instead, feel proud that you helped rescue perfectly loving (and lovable) pets in need of forever homes! The stark and tragic alternative could have been euthanasia! Instead, you've accepted them into your homes, "issues" and all, and work toward rebuilding their confidence around people and other pets.
Where these "issues" seemed to be most problematic (when speaking with aforementioned pet parents) was in reference to leash reactivity—that is, dogs that lunge/pull toward/bark at other dogs while on walks. Sure, it can be embarrassing... maybe even a little frightening. But, there are steps you can take to help keep your dog calm. Things you can do that are TOTALLY within your control:
Seek the help of a personal trainer, preferably someone trained in understanding animal behaviors. She or he can assess any sort of problematic issues your dogs may exhibit and work with you to help address those problems.
With approval from a trained professional, consider dog obedience training. Here, your dogs will be able to learn and reinforce positive behavior modification (and you can learn proper training techniques) in a group setting.
Practice helping them keep their attention on you, regardless of possible distractions. This takes time and practice. I recommend reading Managing a leash-reactive dog, over on the Animal Humane Society's website.
Take control of others' lack of control!
You may be asking yourself, what the heck does she mean by "take control of others' lack of control"? Well, I'm glad you asked! You see, in my conversations with all these wonderful and loving pet owners, there were several stories of unleashed dogs galloping toward their leashed dogs, with unrestrained abandon! Were the other dogs being agressive, friendly, dopey, silly? Who knows! But, it's no secret that I have absolutely ZERO tolerance toward irresponsible pet owners who let their dogs frolic off-leash illegally! And, in Portland, unless leashless dogs are frolicking in designated "Off-Leash Areas," it's illegal!
So, as a public service to those of us who have rescued dogs, scared dogs, timid dogs, dogs with "issues," or... heck... even perfectly well-behaved dogs, I've made a brochure just for you! Confrontation sucks. And, most likely, owners of ill-behaved and illegally off-leashed dogs are well aware of the laws. But, the laws are there to keep EVERYONE safe... your dogs, their dogs, and the people around the dogs. Next time you're out walking your dog and an owner seems oblivious to laws and common courtesy, politely hand her or him this easy-to-read, chock-full-o'-information(al) and completely non-offensive, tri-fold brochure (I just wanted to see how many hyphenated words I could cram into one sentence).
You can download the file here. To print at home on standard 8.5'x11.5" paper, with a pretty, 1/4" border (as seen on this page), just set your printer's properties so that the "Orientation" is set to "Landscape" and the "Size Options" is set to "Fit." To keep it all on one page, set it to flip on the vertical (8.5") side of the page.
Will this brochure solve world hunger, plights of third-world nations, or ridiculous water rights laws popping up left and right across our nation? Absolutely not. However, it will help arm you with information to give to irresponsible pet owners who endanger not only their pets, but yours as well. Your dog's gone through enough. Take a stand! You (and your dog) are entitled to safe, public areas where all pets can leave their tragic pasts behind them. YOU are a phenomenal pet parent! Now... go forth and help your pets reclaim the happy lives they deserve!