Rocco was a good dog. Well, to me he was a good dog, even though I might have called him a turkey more than once. Each small win with him was a celebration to me. I felt that Rocco needed me (who else would have lived with him, as my family would say). His complete lack of social grace and his daredevil attitude were so endearing to me. Each calamity he devised opened my heart to him even more. I have outgrown the need to house and nurse a “good dog” like Rocco and am now quite content with the easy life with a couple of behaviorally sound pups. Yep, I have become one of “those” types! But there were several lives that I felt I had saved while I lived with those (not-so) good dogs.
There are those in the field who strongly message that the animals in our shelters are sound—behaviorally and physically. And, in many cases that is true. However, in many cases, it is not. Are we missing some opportunities to reach those potential adopters who want only to save, rescue, attempt to heal those great “bad” dogs and cats looking for someone just like them?!
“Are we missing some opportunities to reach those potential adopters who want only to save, rescue, attempt to heal those great “bad” dogs and cats?”
“High-energy, high prey drive, not terribly social, kind of a jerk…” Who’d want a dog like that? You may be surprised, says Dr. Emily Weiss.
Many of us have noted there are some amazing behaviorally and medically sound dogs and cats in shelters around the country. There also happen to be not a small number of behaviorally and/or medically challenged dogs and cats in many shelters who sometimes don’t get a chance for a variety of reasons—including a perception in our own field that our adopters are not interested in taking home a dog or cat like that…
Now there’s a term we have all heard, and likely all have used. I have observed friends, neighbors, colleagues, family and even myself using the term to describe dogs who may, inside a shelter, be labeled a not-so good dog. Naughty, high energy, uncomfortable around other dogs, high prey drive, not terribly social... All of these descriptors accurately describe one of the loves of my life, Rocco.
The Humane Society of Silicon Valley came up with a nifty Facebook promotion a few months back with just this philosophy. I have to tell you – I was drawn to Teddy!
Good is a relative term. Why don’t we give bad a try?
Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB
ASPCA Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Emily Weiss’ work at the ASPCA involves developing programs and processes that focus on impact on animal welfare. In her previous work as a behaviorist, she developed training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. She has also developed assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Dr. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.
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