Having a dog as a friend can be a fun and meaningful way to add more happiness in life. According to the journal Scientific Reports, having a dog around can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease by keeping us company in times of loneliness and nudging us to be more active.
Jeff Franklin, one of the world’s leading dog trainers and subject of the new book Franklin: The Man Behind the United States Commando Dogs by Matthew Duffy, says dogs can be the “most nonjudgmental, loving and loyal creatures on the planet. We all want more of those qualities in our lives.”
For dogs, being a member of a loving home keeps their tails wagging. Unfortunately, millions of good dogs are living in shelters waiting for that forever home. Jeff explains that many dogs end up in shelters because people underestimate the responsibility of being a dog owner.
“Our shelters would become fairly empty if dog owners realized the amount of time it takes to work with a new dog to integrate them into their new ‘human’ type of life and requirements,” he says. “We have worked with shelters and their dogs for over 20 years and the number one reason for dogs being there is because they simply do not have the life skills they need to be the assets they are capable of being in our lives, such as house breaking, not pulling on the leash, not jumping, not barking, destructive chewing, etc.”
Every October, the ASPCA celebrates Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, to raise awareness about the importance of adopting a shelter dog. If you are thinking about adding a new four-legged friend to your household, Jeff offers his tips for finding the right pet for you.
What should we look for in a shelter dog?
The best thing to do is to look for a dog that generally fits into your lifestyle. If you are picking a shelter dog because they are cute, or sad, or you feel sorry for them, it may not be the correct fit. If you’re busy and social, pick a dog that likes that as well. If you’re more of a homebody that prefers to stay indoors, then pick the hangout kind of dog. There are many personalities of great dogs that need homes of all types.
What are the benefits of caring for/adopting a senior dog?
I believe this is a great unselfish act to do. Sure, we all go to shelters and run straight for the adorable puppies, because baby animals leave an impression on us. For me, I have given a home to several senior dogs and the experience was incredibly rewarding on multiple levels. Of course, the down side is that they were only with me a few years, but having the pleasure to give them a great home environment for their last years was priceless…not to mention so much easier than a feisty puppy.
What is a training tip you can share with us?
Teach your dogs to behave, have good manners and life skills. Commands (sit, down, stay) are good, but overrated compared to just having a well-behaved canine friend. Dogs that behave well usually spend a substantial amount more time with their owners on a regular basis—not to mention the fact that these dogs do not usually end up in shelters. Make your dog an asset by great training at the beginning of your relationship together and you will always have a faithful companion to care for and spend time with.
Where did your ability to communicate with dogs come from?
It sounds cliché, but it is just a natural gift. I can teach people how to work with animals, but truly reading and communicating is a naturally given trait that can be enhanced with experience. I’ve been lucky to spend most of my life working with dogs and this has given me invaluable insight into how they think and behave.
What’s most satisfying to you about your work with dogs?
I am most satisfied when I work with a canine family or K9 team and the results are a happy dog and happy handlers that perform well at whatever their desired task is—whether it be a family pet, a service dog or a working dog.