It is my contention that the best dog for you is the one you have. It is also my scholarly opinion that the SPCA and similar organizations - while noble in and of themselves - are chit stains on the human soul. My dogs come from the SPCA and no bones about it. I need a companion. He must be able to sit, stay, heel and lie down on command. After that the terms and conditions of our partnership are unconditional and wide open. These two idiots will lay down their lives for me; how can I not reciprocate? It is a tragedy when animals like this end up at the SPCA or get euthanized.
Macey is the brown shepherd/collie/retriever/alley cat cross in the photo. Her former owners dropped her off at the SPCA because she was 'aggressive and uncontrollable'. When I got her, she was. If she saw a rabbit, or a cat or another small dog - she did her best to slip her leash and attack it - with the full intent of killing it. I started with my usual dog training methods that have always served me in the past: a rolled up newspaper and a pocketful of cookies. If the dog misbehaved, she got beat with the rolled up newspaper and scolded. If she was good she got a treat.
Macey shrugged off the beatings with the newspaper with contemptuous impunity. I started using my hands to spank her. I spanked her until my hands hurt - to no avail. She was smart, I knew that - but she was stubborn as hell too. One day she got her jaws on a small pocket dog and I started strangling her trying to get her to let go of it. When she did, thankfully the small ankle biter was alright...but I was shaken. I took her home, threw her in the back of the truck and was fetching the keys to take her back to the SPCA. Dogs like Macey that come back to the shelter are seldom put up for adoption again - but I was at my wits end. I was literally beating this dog when she misbehaved and it was having no effect. She was a predator first and a pet second and that was final!
Thank God for my wife. She intercepted me, talked me down and told me not to make decisions like this while I was mad. Macey had won a stay of execution - but her days were numbered. I will not have a dog that bites or threatens the pets of others.
One day I wandered into the pet shop and figured I would try a choke collar. They had a couple makes and brands but the one I saw was a combination choker with deadly-looking spikes on the inside of it. One jerk with that, and those spikes dig in and would hurt like blazes. If you let off on it - it's loose enough that the dog wouldn't even know it's there. I hated myself for it - but I bought it. Macey was in very deep trouble and if this didn't work, she was done. I needn't have worried. Within a month, rabbits, cats and other dogs could pass directly in front of us - and just the threat of that collar had Macey firmly in control of herself. But that wasn't the turning point - that came when she could control herself enough to actually THINK. People call them dumb animals and say it's because they can't reason. I call BS; Macey can reason like a champ and I have proven it to doubters a number of times. But her real breakthrough came when she realized that all she had to do was what the monkey was telling her to do - and she got rewarded and praise! She went from being motivated by punishment and pain to motivation by reward - and once a dog can do that...the sky is the limit. Today she heels and points. She runs left and right on command and stops and sits when commanded. She exceeded all my expectations - once she learned a trick she wanted to learn more. This summer I got royally reamed at the airfield by and old lady that saw the spikey collars. I was told to get them on civilized collars at once or I would be taken behind the woodshed and dealt with. So...I bought some less lethal looking collars to keep the women and civilians from getting upset.
One day we got into an impromptu dog obedience competition with some friends out on the patio at starbucks. They were into the formal dog-sport of Schutzenhund and apparently the dogs need to be flawlessly trained and bred to win. Their German Shepard came by air from Germany from top notch breeders and they paid $7,000.00 for the dog when she was a pup. She grew to be a spectacular animal, but on that patio, on that day, the seniors that served as the judges decreed our little contest to be a tie. HAR HAR HAR!!! Today we patrol the neighbourhood twice a day, on the lookout for crime. The troublesome seniors in my neighbourhood wisely behave themselves, knowing that Captain Sweat Pants and his fearless canine side kick are ready to restore order at the drop of a hat! HAR HAR HAR!
Macey was now doing fine...but she was lonely. One day I ran into Mort - or Mor'Dhu as we named him - after the fiendish Scottish bear-demon. He looks for all the world like a purebred and papered Great Pyranese. Purebreds are often wooly and shaggy and look something like St. Bernards. Their owners will groom them and bath them and they look wonderful...but I just gave Mort a buzz cut. Summers are a lot better for him without all that hair. Macey loved him at first sight and they have been our room-mates ever since.
Mort was a direct contrast to Macey; he is probably the dumbest dog I have ever seen...but maybe the most loved. People have poetically referred to retards as 'Emissaries from Heaven' and rightfully so. As dim as he is, Mort loves attention and loves those that give it to him. Everyone stops to pet Mort as we pass by. The seniors in particular are most vulnerable to his charm, they just seem to lose themselves in his eyes and adoration as they pet him and softly mumble about dogs they used to own themselves. Toddlers barely able to walk have staggered up to him, grabbed him in a hug...and he will slip a foreleg around them and try to hug them back. It's so cute that I got diabetes from watching it and had to go puke in the bushes. Where Macey and I were fearless deadly crime fighters...Mort was a much loved village idiot! HAR HAR HAR!
Mort only had one problem - he wasn't house trained. I started by beating his ass with a rolled up newspaper when he made a mess, and went from that to brass knuckles and billy clubs - and from THAT to a 2x4 with nails through it at the business end! I was at my wits end just like I was with Macey...so I put him in a crate. Crates are small cages for dogs to sleep in while the owners are away or asleep. It looks mean to put a dog in a crate during the day...but he actually likes it. He won't make a mess if we are home, and if he is in his crate, he will hold his mud rather than sleep in his own filth! With the crate - Mort became a domesticated house dog. The crate became his bedroom and he goes there to eat his cookies and treats or to sack out when we are too busy to pet him.
My advice to anyone looking at an older dog from the SPCA is this: MOST dogs that have problems can be made into fine pets and companions. Do not trust the charlatans like the Dog Whisperer or the self proclaimed authorities and authors. Talk to the people that acutally TRAIN dogs. They see it all and a few may have had problem animals themselves. Do not be afraid of 'being mean' to the dog. He is going to challenge you for dominance - and he is doing exactly what his genetics have programmed him to do. Be prepared - you don't try to reason or beg with dogs. YOU have to dominate THEM...and once they understand that everything else is good.
Do not give up on your best friend because he will NEVER give up on you. Dogs like this should have never ended up in the SPCA. So - if you've a mind too...check the SPCA first rather than the breeders and puppy mills. You will not be sorry, that is a Filthie Guarantee!
Now get that dog out for a walk - and don't turn your back on those shifty seniors in your neighbourhood! They are not to be trusted! ;)