New Animal Control.Org

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Dog Owner Education and Screening Classes as a Prerequisite to Licensing

I once knew a man who had a middle-aged Pit bull with terrible arthritis. The guy was horrified to learn that his decision to have the dog sleep on the floor may have brought about or at least exacerbated the animal's condition. He loved his dog, but he thought that a carpeted spot on the living room floor would be plenty good enough, because he had always heard that Pit bulls are tough dogs. No one told him that the dog needed a bed. He honestly didn't know.

His heart was in the right place and he acquired the dog with the intention of providing him with everything he required. But then, despite his good intentions, he still inadvertently inflicted injury on the animal, about whom he cared deeply, and he did it out of sheer ignorance.

There are many ways other than poor bedding that a person can unknowingly cause harm to their dog. For example, there are several ways to feed a dog to death and you can do damage to a canine that will be undetectable in the short-run, just by playing the wrong kind of game, just as surely as you can wreak irreparable harm by using the wrong kind of collar in the wrong way.

To be sure, it's easy enough to hurt a dog out of ignorance. It is an incessant occurrence. And the less you know, the easier it is to do.

Not only do well meaning people often injure their dogs for lack of information, a dog kept by a poorly educated owner can and often does have a similar impact on his human neighbors.

The pre-licensing class, then, should be the time to make certain that the dog owner-to-be learns everything he needs to know in order to provide both his dog-to-be and his neighbors with a safe, healthy, injury-free environment.

In that way we can protect our own species. At the same time, we can also enhance the well being of the canine species, as we apply the brakes to the breakneck pace of the cycle of - purchase - abandon - rescue or euthanize.

A Dog Owner Pre-licensing Class Curriculum Checklist

A dog owner education pre-licensing class should include all of the following:

  • How to select a healthy dog and avoid the spawn of puppy mills
  • An overview of the traits, abilities, space requirements, exercise requirements, range of temperature tolerance, expected life span, and special needs common to the breed the applicant is considering
  • A vaccination schedule
  • How to treat common ailments and how to know when it is time to call a vet
  • What to watch for, how to spot, and what to expect in the way of diseases and illnesses as your dog ages
  • What to expect in the way of medical expenses throughout the life of your dog, but especially in the first six months
  • All about health insurance for dogs
  • How to locate and identify suitably nutritious food
  • All about suitable bedding for a canine
  • The impact upon your neighbor's health when you allow your dog's voice to be forcibly projected into their living quarters
  • How allowing your dog to bark at passersby in a belligerent manner serves to increase the probability that he will eventually attack someone
  • Where to find information about how to quiet a dog
  • Which breeds are most amenable to obedience training
  • Where to find information about obedience training
  • How to keep aggressive behavior from developing and how to cope with it after it is established
  • How to tell if your dog has grown dangerously aggressive
  • How to maintain your dog in a sanitary, inoffensive fashion
  • How to ensure that your dog will not roam, wander, or escape his enclosure
  • About dangerous collars, devices, and practices proven injurious to dogs
  • The local laws pertaining to keeping a canine
  • A realistic assessment of what it costs to feed and care for a dog on a yearly basis
It Should Be a Time to Delineate the Obligations of the Licensee

The dog owner pre-licensing education class can and should be the time for the authorities to do something that is never done today -- the time to spell out to the owners-to-be exactly what obligations they will be assuming when they sign the form that symbolizes their acceptance of the responsibilities that go with being licensed to keep a dog.

For the first time, through the pre-licensing classes, as a society, we can make it clear right up front at the beginning of the process that those entrusted with caring for canines need to provide their dogs with a high quality of life in an environment that is well suited to raising an animal of any given size and disposition. That means that license applicants will need to agree to provide their dogs-to-be with not only medical care and all the basic creature comforts, but also with a reasonable amount of exercise.

Licensees will also learn in no uncertain terms that they have an obligation to maintain their dogs in a quiet fashion. That way there will be no excuses for any health-shattering barking problems ever getting started. One should never have to debate with the owner of a noisy dog about whether or not the animal can be bark trained or whether that person has an obligation to keep his dog's barking in check. Local government should go over all that with the dog owner before they ever issue him a license.

In that regard, along with an emphasis on treating the dog well, there needs to be a focus on the license applicant's obligation to see to it that his dog-to-be never in any way causes any sort of problems for the neighbors.

To further that purpose, during the pre-license process, the city can record the licensee's phone number at work as well as those of friends or family who can be available to take immediate action if the city gets a complaint that the dog is behaving disruptively while the owner is not home. That way, if someone's dog launches into a barrage of barking on any given day, any aggrieved neighbors can phone the authorities who can then call the dog's owners at work, or wherever, to facilitate a quick correction of the problem.

It Should Be a Time to Screen for Commitment and Potential Problems

Sad to say, there are many people who acquire dogs who plan from the very outset to maintain the animals in ways that are certain to be problematic for the community and/or harmful to the dog. If the authorities would bother to ask them, such people would readily admit that when they get their new dog home the first thing they are going to do is to put him right out in the front yard where they intend to encourage him to bark at everyone who walks by, on the theory that any given person passing within the animal's line of sight might possibly be up to no good. Such people don't hesitate to chain-up, pen-up, and crate-up, and among them are those who eagerly encourage aggressive behavior and in general, foster their dog's anti-social responses with a zeal that would lead one to believe that the animal had become the anointed surrogate for their own sociopathic proclivities.

Then, there are others who go out and get dogs and bring them home, but then, for whatever reason, quickly discover that they just can't keep them. These are the poorly educated dog buyers who keep our canine death rooms open, our shelters full, and our rescue centers stuffed to overflowing. There are many such people. They really don't have the money, or the physical space, or the know how, or the degree of situational stability it takes to keep a dog - but assume that they do - because they just don't know any better.

In the pre-licensing class, we need to educate such people so that no dog ever again sees the inside of a gas chamber because his owner got a dog before he knew what he was getting into.

To that end, the pre-licensing class should require a statement from each applicant describing the conditions and the situation in which the dog will be kept. Any clearly problematic applicants should be denied a license.

A Summary of What We Can Accomplish By Way of Mandatory Pre-Licensing Dog Owner Education Classes

This page is part of the New System section of New Animal Control.Org