Dog Tips from DogTown
Co-founder, Best Friends Animal Society
The relationship between humans and dogs is nothing new. To date, the best evidence suggests that we share a relationship going back at least 14,000 years. No one knows how it all started — whether we chose human-tolerant wolves to assist us with hunting and protection, or if those wolves actually decided to live with us for food and the other perks humanity provided.
However the relationship developed, we are now stuck with each other. The dogs that we live with today are hard wired by millennia of purposeful breeding for a relationship with people, and who’s to say that humanity’s wiring to desire a relationship with dogs has not been affected by our partnership with these remarkable creatures. Being guided by our shared instincts and common history brings us together into the most successful, unique interspecies relationship on the planet. And our relationships can only get better by further adapting how we relate to dogs in a way that respects their intelligence, their individuality, and their desire for our companionship.
Dogtown is one of the primary animal care areas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the home of Best Friends Animal Society. As the name implies, Best Friends believes that the animals in our care and in our home are our friends. They are not captives, slaves or enemies that need to be forced into compliance. Neither are they animated toys that only need to be programmed. They are intelligent beings with a full range of interests, emotions, needs and sometimes an unknown personal history. In short—they have lives of their own. Dog training at Best Friends, or should I say "dog education," begins with a respect for the long history that we share and the understanding that every dog is an individual, just like you and I.
Consider this: Teaching a happy, well-nurtured puppy is very different from teaching a dog who has been abused, which is different from teaching a dog that has learned to manage his life and environment in ways that are just not appropriate for hanging out with or living with people. Living with each of these dogs and giving him the best life possible requires a different strategy for each one. You’ll need to discard any previous assumptions and get to know the dog as an individual in order to build a strong, trust-based relationship between the two of you.
At Dogtown, the philosophy and ethics of Best Friends Animal Society is apparent in the methodology that our amazing staff applies to teaching the dogs in our care. Through an approach called Relationship-Based Training, we show dogs how to succeed in the lives that are awaiting them when they leave the Sanctuary and are adopted into loving new homes. As the name implies, it’s not about coercion or force, it’s about building a friendship -- one that works for all parties involved. Just like any other relationship it involves an exchange of information and consistent language that allows mutual comfort and trust to grow.
You want a successful relationship with your dog but your dog needs a successful relationship with you. The guidelines, insights and tips contained in Dog Tips from DogTown have been proven over years of working with dogs of all ages and with almost every imaginable prior experience including the trauma of Katrina, the abuses of dog fighting rings, the shock of war or the simple dislocation resulting from economic hardship. Dog Tips from DogTown will help you and your dog to get the most out of your relationship and to become truly, best friends.
Photos by Best Friends staff