The Passion to Punish

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First, last, and always, this is the truth about communication with animals: Punishment is the lowest form of expression.

A photo of this foster dog snuck out and a couple folks asked me about him. Okay, I’ll tell you, but if you’re expecting one of my clever posts about Corgi hijinks, you’ll be disappointed. This biggest feeling I have about this dog is that I’m mad. Really mad.

I don’t write about all the animals we foster here. A couple of months ago, Jack, a Corgi-Jack Russell cross, was here for a foster/evaluation visit. He was a riot. I’m not sure why he was relinquished, but he was a dog’s dog. Maybe his owners wanted a people-dog. I suppose depending on how you see things, his problem could have been his “bad” half. He was the personification of both breeds, loud and proud.

A great dog-woman adopted him and they are busy living happily ever after. She keeps me posted on the battle to see who gets under the covers first. It was a simple foster to a happy ending. They should all be this easy.

This new white-bellied foster dog isn’t so easy. See how cute he is when he’s nearly napping? He came to rescue with his shock collar and his meds; he’s on canine Prozac. Oh, and he’s just thirteen months old.

His owners were first-time dog owners. I think they did their best but got the very worst advice available. As much as it pains me to talk badly about an animal, this pup has a list of problems that are destructive, or scary, or both. The fancy term is resource guarding, but it’s complicated. He isn’t just quirky. He’s a mess. And still very cute belly-up.

He went to an obedience class. The pup sits and shakes and goes in his crate. But somehow while learning tricks, the conversation must have changed, because someone thought a shock collar was a good idea. Who uses a shock collar on a puppy?

This is what Lara, from the positive dog training blog, Rubicon Days, has this to say about shock collars: “The argument is not that they are not or cannot be effective. The argument is that the potential fallouts of training with these devices can be increased aggression, shutting down, and confused associations. Aside from not wanting to deliberately hurt or scare my dogs, these risks are too great.” 

And if that wasn’t enough, what kind of vet prescribes Prozac for a puppy? A Corgi puppy? Does that qualify as an oxymoron? I remember back in the day that people used Prozac as a murder defense, claiming aggression was a side effect. Did he even weigh twenty pounds?

***Cue the Rant***

Most days, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Stop taking advice from idiots!”

(Remember me? I’m the one who always recommends that people ask for help. As if there was an easy way to spot idiots–even professional idiots. At the same time, when I hear people say that all trainers are idiots and I want to raise my hand and say, “not me.” Like any trainer would admit to being an idiot, even if they were. It’s a dilemma.)

The first day, this little foster destroyed a couple of toys, stole most of my socks, unloaded some shelves, and shredded a cardboard box into small bits. He’s frantic out of his crate, but he’s been crated so much I want to give him a chance. He has no recall and he wanted to play with the other dogs so hard that he pushed them relentlessly. Now they don’t like him much.

Then he ate one of my Crocs. A few minutes later, he got another Croc. I think you know what that means to me…. I looked at him and he stopped chewing. He sat dead still, his brow furrowed, braced for something bad. I still haven’t made a peep, but he’s worried and puts his head in a corner. How many people have failed this dog in his short life? That’s what I’m mad about. Not him.

So, for now, this little guy is in detox. His meds certainly weren’t helping. He’s still waiting for that sting that makes his head want to explode, but it isn’t going to come. Sometimes he flashes his temper and starts a fight. Then he falls asleep with his pasty white belly as vulnerable as a baby. Sometimes he won’t let me touch his neck. He’s afraid of flyswatters. Other times he crawls into my chair and lays his big, flat head on my chest and looks into my eyes.

Right now, my plan is to let him breathe. He needs time. I called a moratorium on punishment. He’s had enough discipline for a lifetime. Instead, he gets to chew sticks in the yard and I hid my shoes. Sometimes, he comes now, if you say good boy first.

As concerned as I am for him, I might be more concerned for us. Are we so intolerant that we have to legitimize torture for puppies? It’s profanity; dogs are our best animal friends. If humans truly have a passion for punishment, then it’s us that need to learn to get along.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro
I recommend a book a friend wrote: Bark and Lunge, by Kari Neumeyer. It’s the story a reactive dog whose loving owner looks for help in all the wrong places.

65 thoughts on “The Passion to Punish

  1. Celeste

    Thank you. Other than that I can’t find the right words to express how sad this makes me feel. Poor little white belly pup. Finally he is in the right hands and I know you will serve him well.

  2. Chaz Seale

    I can visualize you standing there and just staring at him. Best friends need more friends like you.

  3. lsterling56

    Oh Anna. This post made me lean over and physically roll up into a tight ball of anger and sadness. Thank God this good boy is in your care. Lately I’ve been having a confused conversation with myself about the Internet. I love it for introducing me to people like you. I hate it for making it so easy for idiots to offer wrong information and horrible advice. Heaven knows we have always gotten enough of it from face to face encounters; now with a few keystrokes on those devices we all carry there is yet another “expert” telling us how to be and what to do. No judgement here: in my ignorance I listened to the siren call of the punishment gurus more than once. But, I wised up, thanks to people like you. It takes a discerning mind to wade through the nonsense and simply listen to the animals entrusted to our care. Your words give voice to reason and truth. Bless you.

    1. It’s why I blog, to be an idiot antidote. But lots of folks think I’m an idiot. We are a distrustful species. But I hear you. Thanks, Liz.

      On Nov 18, 2016 7:43 AM, “Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog” wrote:

      >

  4. Mary E

    It’s no different than having a toddler in the house. You remove harmful items and valuables but you expect them to be toddlers with all the messiness that comes with it. You make sure they get plenty of exercise, good food and supervision. You GUIDE them towards the behavior you want. Eventually, they start to get it, but only incrementally. People’s minds have been messed up by the likes of Ceasar what’s-his-face who achieves good behavior in a half hour segment of TV. Having animals is like having kids, it takes time, time and more time.

  5. Linda

    Tobago Crested also a rescue puppy that was put on Prozac and had many of these issues. He came off the drugs just fine there was no big detox time so no real worry there except the dummies including Vet who put the poor puppies on this stuff

  6. Christa

    that sounds so familiar… Rescued dogs or horses that sometimes are brave enough to come to you when you say good boy first. It always makes me so sad inside when I need to show an animal that people can be okay. Thanks for this post I hope it will open some eyes.

  7. Good grief, this makes me cry. I have never had a Corgi, but I have a Jack Russell so I know about the not listening part. They are said to be notoriously hard to house break (this one was) but I don’t know why because they are so smart.

    And when did the collective psyche of dog training “forget” that dogs are often impossibly naughty and destructive until they outgrow it at about 2 years? Instead of just putting stuff up where they can’t get it, not allowing situations to happen that set them up for naughtiness – instead we shock and medicate them???

    I had a SINGLE INCIDENT where I paddled a naughty puppy for actually biting my kid. I was right there when it happened, the punishment was textbook swift and accurate. Her nasty little a** should have learned right then that biting was not allowed under any circumstances. Period. Instead, she was so mentally train-wrecked that it was months before similar situations didn’t turn her into a trembling mess of anxiety. She’s 13 now and I still see remnants of it. That incident taught me much – this little dog is a gift from God who has set me on a whole new path… http://www.hoofprints.com/lucy.asp

  8. Karen

    I feel the same way about kids. If, as a parent, you hit to discipline, what you are teaching your kid is that physical violence is the answer to frustration, to not getting what you want, to not achieving perfection. That rolls over to animals as well.

    It is really hard as an adult who was hit often as a kid to recognize that behavior, to assess the reasons behind it and then to make changes. It takes a lot of self-analysis and a desire to do better. We humans have a tendency to want to justify our actions, to dig in and defend our behavior, since change can be so soul wrenching. Much easier to raise a child that has never been hit, who does not believe that might makes others do what you believe is right. It’s also easier to teach a child empathy for all living creatures when they haven’t had it beat out of them.

    Glad that white bellied dog has a person who is willing to hold space for him, to give him time to come back to himself.

  9. Oh my gosh!! What a lucky pup he is. I read all your blogs & save most of them for reference. You are wise beyond words & I imagine the very best friend to people & animals equally. I work with riders & horses. Your blogs always give me something to use in my life. Thank you!

  10. Heartbreaking.
    I am having trouble wrapping my head around someone doing that to a puppy.
    Over the summer I was gifted with a young pup dropped at my mailbox. He is a shoe,eating, trash stealing, paintbrush eating, paws on the counter big boy. Normal pup.
    When it came time to teach him about riding in cars (to prep him for the neutering trip) had the other two loaded and watched this little boy have a full blown panic attack. It broke my heart.
    So just like horse training, went to getting him close to the car and giving him a treat, then went from there.
    He’s had his vet trip and loves to ride in the car.
    He knows he is our special delivery blessing.
    Sending love to you both. He’ll do fine and he’s lucky he made to your house as soon as he did.

  11. pauilaromanowMSVU1

    Such a great example of when you don’t know what to do, just be still. It’ll show up eventually. Ranting right along with you (having just brought into rescue a very similar dog who’s owner surrendered him instead of paying $4000 to a Cesar Milan clone (may he rot in hell) to “fix” him. It is to weep. Or to rant. Or to sometimes just be still. *sigh*

  12. I’ve been lucky to have had a lot of dogs in my life (many of them client dogs for training or grooming or showing), so I’ve met a few who were a handful.
    And yet, of all the dogs I’ve ever known (including the malamute bitch that nearly ate a min pin at an agility clinic), it’s their people that I would see wearing the shock collar if it were up to me. *sigh*

    Those on your chest, eyeball to eyeball moments….. I melt.

  13. It is unfortunate that negative reinforcement is a quicker deterrent to undesirable behavior. This makes for ‘lazy’ training, all the way around. The consequences however, are rarely discussed. As you have aptly noted, one behavior may stop, but another negative consequence arises. Time, really can heal many wounds. Taking the time in the beginning of ‘training’ really does pay off and make the rest of training so much easier. If only people could be convinced. Bless you for your patience!!!

  14. I don’t even know how to respond…he’s a puppy. That just describes an adorable little, chewing out of control monster who’s high on life. You have to go through it, to get past it. If you can’t handle that, don’t get one. Get an older dog who will sleep at your feet. People expect so much out of animal babies, and maybe human babies, I don’t know. It breaks my heart to even think about using shock collars and inflicting pain as a method of teaching. I just don’t get it. If we truly are addicted to punishment as a path to “perceived perfection”, they should not have pets and they should not have children. My heart aches for the society that we seem to be becoming.
    Thank you so much for helping him, and I’m sorry about your crocs…I understand.

  15. Lyn Chambers

    Sigh. We just adopted a little Jack Russell/Dachshund. A local Pitbull rescue actually saw him get set on the ground out of a car and then the car drove away, this little dogs legs running as fast as he could trying to chase the car down. Sadly she was so busy trying to prevent this dog getting run over she was unable to get a license plate. Bonzai is the sweetest dog. Yes, he’s a young dog (1 yr. approx.). Yes he’s a JRT/Dachshund!! Eek! Yes, he was not housebroken. Yes, he will steal a kleenex if he can. Yes, he will try to take your hand off with the treat. …..The list goes on and on. But how any of this results in being dumped out of a car is beyond words. He is as cute as can be, he is smart, he wants to please, he TRIES to be good but sometimes that self control just isn’t there. And that is OK. My two big girls (canine) are helping him step by step. He now has a great life and someone missed out on a truly wonderful dog. Those other owners must have listened to idiots……………..or they were idiots. Sometimes that’s a very thin line. I am so happy for little White Belly that he has found sanctuary with you for now. You are just what he needs.

  16. Anna, the first dog my daughter’s and son-in-law got as adults was a Queensland Heeler. (They live in a town house with a 12×12 yard.). Obviously they didn’t ask for advice sense they bought her from a road side seller when they were on the way home from an out of state concert.
    If you ever condsider a Jack Russell or Queensland read the first chapter of Horse Heaven; then stifle your laughter and say no.
    Tripp is the smartest dog I’ve ever known and they have spent great amounts of money and time making it work for the dog they love so much. Unfortunately, among it was a $500.00 dollar investment in a class with shock collars. Now that she is eight, she is just becoming a somewhat easy dog. That collar just did her in. And their decision was made out of love and desperation to make their dog fit in a life-style she wasn’t bred for….despite their driving to places to run with her daily.
    So, I say along with you, NEVER CONSIDER A SHOCK COLLAR. And, buy a dog, or best, adopt a dog who fits your life style.

  17. Being currently owned by a jack russell terrorist rescued from an (at best) neglectful home, this post just tore me up. At six months old she wasn’t house trained yet and had apparently subsisted on canned corn and the litter box in the days prior to me getting there. Don’t ask how I know that.

    While we still don’t have recall (and never will) she is the sweetest, calmest, least yappy cat loving jrt you could ever want to meet. She knows when she does wrong (and knew before she did it). All it takes is a look from me – can’t imagine raising a hand to her.

    Even my sturdy optimism is floundering now, wondering how far humanity can stoop…

  18. Jenny G

    Yay, a Corgi post! Boo, to the idiot people that tried to mess this pup up. Time will tell as he steals your heart and eats your Crocs, if he can make a full come back. Hopefully the animal friends will give him a second chance too. Thanks for all your hard work.

  19. Kate Schmidt-Hopper

    Our terrier mix rescue has now been with us for 18 months Lulu was also a mess with destructive tendencies. It took some expensive losses to train US to put behind closed doors anything of value. Lulu knew her behavior was “bad”. My response was a time out; affiliation training where certain behaviors she would be separated from the”pack ” for 10 min. But then given a chance for redemption with treats for ” good” behavior like recall, sit, off, etc. 5 rewards for 1 time out. I have now bought new throw pillows and she hasn’t touched them. The remote has been accidentally left low and wasn’t touched. She still shreds a bit, and steals sox, but she just hordes them. She still looks guilty, but we haven’t used a time out for months. I’ve left one pillow that has an open corner that is plucked occasionally, but I just frown and re stuff it. She is a sweet and very loving dog who may never get enough love to repair her previous abandonment, but we’re trying!

  20. S Primgaard

    I don’t know why people just don’t slow down and think instead of just reacting when they deal with animals. Poor pup, it’s like expecting a toddler to understand how to do a dinner party and when they get the forks wrong then get shocked with the collar!
    Good luck, it seems like you are on the right track with him.

  21. Thank you for the shout out. I think Isis might have been a whole year old when a shock collar was first recommended. Six months or so for the prong collar. Wish I’d drawn the line before then.

    I’m happy the puppy found his way to you. That is a delicious belly.

  22. Susie

    We rescued a 7 month old min pin. He had fear aggression big time. It took about 4 years for him to heal enough to have about 7 friends in the world, but he was happy with that. I gave him a good life but that was as long as it was. 4 years. He got hit by a car, which killed me inside, but I had to be content with his quality of life towards the end. Sweet guy. Didn’t deserve what he got right out of the gate. Still love that dog.

    1. A short life redeemed is worth so much. It’s what rescue is about. I really wonder with small dogs especially, if fear aggression isn’t common sense. Thanks Susie.

  23. I have had my Australian Shepherd since he was 4 months old and he’s 9 years old now. I have never used a shock collar on him and everyone always compliments on how well behaved he is- even my own husband has said that he’s the best well behaved dog he’s ever met. I don’t think people realize how deep the bond can be between them and their dog if they never hit them or use the shock collar for punishment. We betray their trust every time we do that to them and we are just lucky they don’t attack us for attacking them. I’m so glad that corgi is with you right now.

    1. Such a good point; people think animals are not capable of relationships, just fear. Wonderful comment, thank you for this comment. You are a blessing to your dog!

  24. Anna,
    just such joy in knowing he is with you during this healing/detox phase…That he found his way into the atmosphere of a true human who understands the wisdom of silence (taught by many a horse) it allows all of the heartbreaking ingredients to be held in an alchemical/healiing pot which is gently stewing. What will emerge will be such a gift…as is what is already emerging.

    I understand you are in a process of not adding anything but rather simplifying his life and I want to offer this resource in case it feels right to you at some point. It is a very awesome flower essence family company who makes custom essences that can be put in his water. Flower essences offer such subtle support for healing imprints on a really subtle vibrational level (which is what you are offering him already)
    http://www.aldaronessences.com/

    I am so grateful you shared this story with us – there is a lot of beauty in the learnings and in the unlearning too.
    love,
    Sabina

  25. I don’t have enough time to read all the success and horror stories here because I have a herding puppy right now too. (Exhausted sigh) You know what I went through with my previous boy … my beautifully bred, wonderfully intelligent, biddable boy. Can’t tell you how many trainers we went though because I’d never had a dog I couldn’t train or fix until I had him. So I reached out and got help. The professional advice ranged from taking drugs (the dog. Although I wouldn’t have been adverse to taking a few Xanax every now and then either), to using a shock collar, and (take a deep breath here) hanging him up by his collar until he couldn’t breathe. Yup, that ought to get his attention, eh? I don’t have to tell you genetics count. You know they do. It’s not all bad training or environment. I know that because I never once used harsh tactics and my dog still continued to be a simmering hot mess His. Entire. Life. If I learned anything it’s that some stuff you can fix and some stuff you just have to learn to live with. His neurosis aside, he was an AWESOME dog and I miss him terribly. Go figure.

    1. It always amazes me, horses and dogs, that the vast majority of the info is always cruelty based, but it is. I thought about writing some about temperament too. This is conjecture on my part, but this is my third corgi rescue and I am convinced that they are all puppy mill dogs. I’ve known ethical breeders, and these three dogs couldn’t look more different and be the same breed. It’s hard to think the inside isn’t different, as well. Thanks Cheryl.

  26. Dee Morris

    Honestly? Stories like this bring out my inner fascist who believes that only me and about 4 other people in the whole world should have be allowed to steward animals. I’m very happy that the tide has turned for this little soul but can’t let myself think about the ones for whom it hasn’t. Well said and as always beautifully expressed.

    1. Hmm. Inner fascist? I am sure I shouldn’t be amused by that term, but I have a pesky smile when I try to claim any kind of high ground. Thank you, my sister.

  27. Poor baby! That sucks so bad! I don’t know why anyone would put a shock collar on a puppy but unfortunately I’ve seen it happen a few times. It always makes me so sad.

    Thanks for taking him on!

  28. Ahhh Anna. I am glad you have this boy now and I hope the damage isn’t permanent. After reading your post and the comments, Conner got snuggled a bit. I often tell my students, stop. Just stop. Wait and take a breath, start over. Good luck to you, I hope he finds the perfect, loving home when it’s time.

    1. Thanks, Holly. That start-over-thing… is there anything that matters more. Just the last couple of days, he is able to play without blowing up, sharing pull toys. On the other hand, he tore out about a quarter of the linoleum in the bathroom. While we were all in the next room. He is a work in progress. He’s a puppy. Thanks, Holly.

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