Expert trainer Misha Gildenberger wants to encourage people to adopt, not buy, dogs. Buying doesn’t guarantee a dog will be perfect without proper training, she says, adding that the feeling you get from
adopting is “magical”.
So you want to have a cute, well-behaved dog.
Even if you have deep pockets, you can’t buy your perfect dog, believes Bay of Plenty dog trainer Misha Gildenberger of Roma Dog Behavior Academy.
Eighty percent of the dogs she trains for behavioral issues are purebred, and just because you’re spending $2,000 instead of $100-300 on a mixed breed doesn’t mean the dog will behave. As you wish.
Therefore, Gildenberger, who is also a veterinary nurse, says first-time dog owners should come prepared and consider getting professional help to find out which dog is right for them.
She would like everyone to consider a rescue dog first, saying it’s a “life-saving thing”; and furry parents-to-be should consider “pre-puppy classes,” much like prenatal classes for babies, except this time you can opt out of what’s to come if it sends you into a cold sweat.
Lessons include canine psychology; protect your home from pets; what you need to buy: “Forget a fancy $100 bed. He’s going to tear it up the first night”; annual leave required to settle your fur child into their new home. A weekend is not enough. She suggests a week.
Not getting help can set you up for failure, she says, adding that the demand for dogs keeps growing.
“It is important that more education and responsibility are applied.”
The Argentinian, who lives in Pāpāmoa, has 10 years of experience as a dog trainer.
Placement at a rescue center can be a good way to test out what it’s like to have a dog, and some pounds offer weekend trials, she says.
This is important because rehoming an animal if it doesn’t work can cause trauma. However, repatriation is sometimes necessary.
The cost of living crisis and the pandemic puppy boom had led to failed adoptions.
Gildenberger gives the example of those who had a puppy during successive closings while working from home but have since returned to the office 10 hours a day, leaving their dog alone at home and claiming they cannot get away. allow a dog walker or day care. “But what did you have in mind?” she asks.
Thanks to Covid restrictions, more dogs have also been sold without potential owners having the opportunity to meet the pup and assess the credibility of the breeder.
There has also been an increase in the number of people buying dogs on social media.
“They bring the dog home, he’s hyperactive and they don’t have time for that,” she says.
“Four months later, the mum is crying, the children are not helping and the dog has destroyed the garden.”
Gildenberger ran a dog rescue in Argentina for 10 years before moving to New Zealand four years ago with his own rescue dog, Roma.
The time, effort and money animal rescuers invest in animals before adopting them means they refuse to let them go to an unsuitable home, she says, which means some apps rescue may seem invasive, but it’s for the good of the dog.
Everyone should consider a pound or rescue dog rather than buying from a breeder, she believes, saying “thousands” are put to sleep in New Zealand every year because shelters are overwhelmed and many many dogs are considered “hard cases”.
“The rescue centers are also at full capacity, so the whole situation with the dogs is just miserable.
“It is up to the public to tackle one of these dogs and invest time in it to save their life.”
“It’s an SPCA special”
When Gail Elliott spotted her dog Ruby on the SPCA website, she knew there was only one way to tell her breed – a DNA test.
Found abandoned on Matakana Island with two five-week-old sisters, Ruby’s genes showed she was “whippet, English Staffy, American Staffy, American and English bulldog”.
“It’s an SPCA special,” she said.
“I had a purebred before her – a West Highland terrier called Alfie – and purebreds, a lot of them are fine, and most breeders are great, but they tend to have health issues.I’m not saying your old pooches won’t, but they seem less likely to.
“And, if you want to give a dog life, a home, and a little love, to me, whatever that is.”
Save a life
Abandoned dogs in need of homes are found in forests, parks and children’s playgrounds, says the non-profit organization Rescue, Revive, Rehome (RRR).
He has 50 dogs in his care and with a no-euthanasia policy, he closed his doors in case of overflow, taking only emergency cases.
Despite people’s best intentions, living situations can change and few owners allow dogs, which means more are needed for new homes, says RRR Canine Team Leader Ronnie McAllum.
However, overall fewer dogs are being euthanized, says Rotorua Animal Control Team Leader Arana Waaka-Stockman.
When he started in this role seven years ago, 900 to 1,000 dogs a year were slaughtered at the pound, now it’s around 200.
Dogs are euthanized if they cannot be rehomed and there are many reasons including aggression. The Rotorua Lakes Council welcomes 130-150 dogs per year.
With 50 dogs in the pound at the time of printing (15 up for adoption), it takes time to cover the welfare of the dogs, let alone try to rehabilitate them too, he says.
At Tauranga SPCA, center manager Andrea Crompton says dogs are not euthanized, with the average length of stay from August 2021 to August 2022 being 38 days before adoption.
Unfortunately, the number of orphaned dogs is increasing because people are unwilling or unable to afford to de-sex their animals.
Animal cruelty is also a sad reality for rescues, says Katrina Thompson of Vada’s Angels.
She has had a blind dog in her care for two years.
Next year, Gildenberger plans to launch a free online training course for anyone in New Zealand who adopts a rescue dog from a shelter.
‘To be realistic’
Amy Ellis from Pāpāmoa had three adopted rescues – Ziggy, a Boxer-Staffy cross, 4, Boom Boom, a Beardie-Catahoula cross, 2, and Ru, a recently deceased unknown mix.
This is her first time as a dog mother and her advice when choosing a dog is “don’t adopt based on looks”.
Instead, match the dog to your home and lifestyle.
“Be realistic about what will be manageable for you and your family. For example, Booms is a working breed, he could never be a dog that only takes one walk a day – he needs mental stimulation and physical every day.”
His other must-have tips are to insure the dog from day one and invest in dog training.
“The more I try to understand my dogs and how to communicate properly, the better off our dogs are. It’s a long-term investment.”
Finally, don’t assume that adopting a puppy will be easier than adopting an older dog.
“Any dog - puppy or older – will need a lot of your time.”
And while it can be difficult to change or improve existing behaviors, it’s not impossible, says Gildenberger.
“Do your research, get help”
A good rescue shelter or pound will ask you detailed questions, and you, in turn, should do the same.
“You have to ask about the dog’s energy level; his temperament; her personality ; its full size as an adult; his behavior problems; how he behaves with others; with noise; his health ; Has he ever been relocated? The whole story so you have the full picture before committing,” says Gildenberger.
“You can also ask the rescuers about their return policy. Do they have coaching courses for difficult cases?”
Most rescue dogs are vaccinated, microchipped and desexed.
Do your research, get help, and adopt a dog that really needs it: “Saving a life is a wonderful feeling.
“It’s magical, beautiful and you feel like a hero.
“I think the dog you have comes from a terrible past and could have had a terrible fate, but you have provided this beautiful home; a family.”
# Visit these Facebook pages for more information
Rotorua Pound – Homeless Dogs
Vada’s Angels Animal Rescue Tauranga
RRR – Rescue Revive Rehome – Bay of Plenty
Rome Academy of Canine Behavior