I just returned from a quick trip to Washington DC, where I was on the Diane Rehm show and taped a segment for Animal House, the WAMU replacement for Calling All Pets. (You can listen to the Diane Rehm interview on her website, and you should check out her show if you haven’t yet — she’s such a great radio host and dog lover; I’ll let you know when the Animal House segment runs.) I also snuck in a quick dinner with my pal Meg Boscov of MuttMatch who came up from Philly and the next night’s dinner with folks from Dream Dog Productions and All About Dogs. During the last dinner, those of us who have been teaching puppy classes for years got to talking about our perception that the pups are getting more difficult, even on the first day of class.
Trainers at Dog’s Best Friend here in Madison first mentioned this to me a few years ago, and I have to admit at first I was a bit skeptical. “Oh, perhaps you just don’t remember that every puppy class wasn’t a Kodak commercial,” but as time went on I became convinced that something seems to have changed. I’m not raising the issue of whether puppy classes are constructive or not (I think good ones are); I’m talking about the FIRST day of class when pups enter into the training room and you get a good sense of their temperament before class even begins. The general impression of some of us is that there are more problems with barking, with frustration intolerance, with dogs who can’t be allowed to play with other pups, with pups who are aggressive to people, even at 9 weeks… I’ve also talked to some people who do rescues and they’ve mentioned to me that the litters they see, of any breed, also tend to be less docile and more potentially problematic. But without any real data, how can we now this for sure?
Well, we can’t, but I’m still curious. I’d love to hear from those of you who have been teaching for several years (at least 10, but 15 or 20 better!): Have you observed an overall change in the demeanor of pups as they enter puppy classes? I don’t want this to be a rant about “ain’t it awful,” so please keep your comments objective and specific as to whether you believe you have seen changes in the general temperament of pups entering class, and if so, exactly what those changes are. Of course, if there is something going on, then one can’t help but speculate about what is causing it, but let’s do first things first: IF you’ve had enough experience to compare over the years, what is your general impression? Perhaps it’s just true in a few areas in the US? What about trainers in other countries? I look forward to your comments.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: It’s a gorgeous day, Willie and I were downright ridiculous when I got home-rub/kiss/hug/moan/pet/snuggle….Time to unpack and work on my talk for tomorrow night at the Dane County Humane Society about cats. (Yeah! I love talking about Feline Ethology.) Then later tonight it’s time to feed the sheep their grain, and do Willie’s PT. Then I’m in bed as soon as I can get there!
Here’s some photos I snapped in DC, close to my hotel: First, a regularly colored “Eastern Grey Squirrel” and a “melanistic” one. This black phase is quite common in some areas of the country, apparently especially in areas where the risk of predation is low. I’ve seen a few is Wisconsin, but not many, and none around the farm.
And here’s a lovely sitting area that I want to pack up and put into my yard! What a gorgeous tree and a peaceful setting: