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Adopting A Shelter Dog In San Diego

September 24, 2013 1:20 p.m.


Carol Harris, a certified dog trainer, and the owner of The Educated Pet.

Dr. Katy Allen, a veterinarian with Veterinary Corporations of America in La Mesa.

Related Story: Adopting A Shelter Dog In San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diegans love their dogs, but times have definitely changed. Mom is usually not home to take care of spot and lots of people are working longer hours and multiple jobs and Fido or fidelity is home a lot more than he or she used to be, so for the love of our dogs we will talk about tips for being a good dog owner, making sure your dog gets enough exercise and how to deal with behavioral problems like separation anxiety. I like to welcome the guests, Carol Harris is a certified dog trainer owner of the educated pet. Carol Harris, it's good to see you.

CAROL HARRIS: Nice to see you again.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Dr. Katy Allen is a local veterinarian and owner of Canterbury Tails veterinary services. Dr. Katy Allen, it's nice to have you back.

KATY ALLEN: It's nice to be back, thanks, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Carol, let me start about talking about actually getting the right dog to start out with. We are told the best place to adopt a dog is from the local shelter. What should people consider when adopting a shelter dog.

CAROL HARRIS: Shelters have lovely lovely dogs really evaluate your family. If you have children make sure you are getting a child friendly dog, if you have a very sedentary lifestyle perhaps you don't want one of the herding breeds or one of the active breeds. If you are an active person a runner who likes to take your dog lots of places that you want to look at the active breeds, but the honesty want to deal with long hair or not. Do you want a puppy and be able to mold it to be what you want it to be, or do you want an older dog that's already got some manners and got some history behind it?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Katy, when you are actually at the shelter and you are looking at all these wonderfully cute adorable dogs, what are some traits to clue you in that this could be the dog for you?

KATY ALLEN: I would first recommend that you thought about it before you go and have a list of traits that you are looking for because otherwise the first one with soft big brown eyes goes home with you and is often not the best choice. I just had a client the other day that had brought a client talking the other day that she got from a shelter or Humane Society have seeing her a lot and she's been spending a lot of money. Her mistake was she went to the shelter there was a letter of healthy puppies, there was a lovely robust one but she saw the little runt who was the prettiest one cowering in the back and she chose the little runt because it was pretty and it was a sickly dog and had she taken the big fat not the cute one crawling toward her, they would've had a much more successful relationship with the dog. And a less expensive one, also.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's interesting when you first get home, Carol, how do you set the tone for behavioral training and trying to assess what the dog is like and what, and the fact that you are sort of like the master and this is kind of like your dog.

CAROL HARRIS: My theory always is as dealing with any certainty creature, you should be doing on a respect basis print you should respect the fact that they are dogs and they should respect you. They are not little people and they are never going to belittle people. They are dogs and you have to respect that. But by the same token I really believe that if it is not cute when the dog is big and jumping on an 80-year-old, it's not cute when the dog is small and jumping on you. So you sort of have to think about what you want the dog to be like as an adult and start from there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I can understand that. And here is the big? I'll pose that to both of you, let me start with you, Katy, how do you prepare your dog to be home alone all day? And that is without driving the poor dog or your poor neighbors crazy.

KATY ALLEN: Well it's going to take time you might be lucky and have a dog that is quite happy to be on its own. It will go into it's great and curl up and sleep most of the day and won't go out in the backyard if it's a yard down. But you might not be that lucky and if you end up with a dog might be prone to separation anxiety or if you want to avoid making it that we need to get the dog when you've got some time to be home a little bit. And practice leaving it alone for smaller amounts of time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When you first get the dog?

KATY ALLEN: When you first get the dog so that when you bring it home and the next morning everybody leaves for school and work and nobody shows up again till six in the evening and that dog especially if you got it from the shelter has no idea anybody's coming back again so if you come home to a destroyed house full of dog poop you kind of for asking for it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Carol, how do you keep the dog if your dog loves to curl up in a little doggie bed and sleep all day that's great but we both know that lots of dogs do not.

CAROL HARRIS: It's important to remember the you can't just get up in the morning and get ready to work and leave. You have to exercise your dog to feed your dog play with your dog exercise your dog meet the dogs needs prior to leaving which means getting up an hour earlier or two hours earlier depending on the dog and making sure that they've had those needs met. Sometimes you might want to ask a neighbor or friend, licensed pet sitter to come in in the middle of the day and take the dog for a walk and given an opportunity to eliminate and have some human companionship. The other thing is, you can provide mental stimulus for your dog while you are gone. A lot of dogs like the radio, a lot of dogs like TV. Some dogs are very specific about the types of music they like. Some a country western, semi classical.

KATY ALLEN: No, not country-western.

CAROL HARRIS: Yes indeed country-western. Some things you can do you can provide them with filled songs, stuffed chilies that they can work on for a while while you are gone and that gives some entertainment value. You can do interactive toys that gives them something to entertain themselves with while you are gone.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Katy you mentioned the term separation anxiety. Is that an advanced form of a dog being upset when you leave the house?

KATY ALLEN: Yes, it's not just when you leave, once you are gone and it's alone, they are scared. They are very anxious and scared and fearful and it can be an absolutely miserable time for them and a lot of them will sort of redirect that and they will be maybe distraction in the house, or they don't go outside and they have defecated or Pete all over the best couch or something, so it is a big problem. It's one of the leading causes of animals getting put to sleep.


KATY ALLEN: That's why it's so important to know your limitations. If getting out of bed in time to barely make it to work is where you are now there's no way you're going to get up an hour and a half earlier to deal with your dogs need so don't get a big dog that will need a long walk, get a. So it's important to note that say don't set yourself up for failure and maybe the dog will have a chance at a home where it would've worked out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there a way to treat separation anxiety?

KATY ALLEN: There is potential a lot of time and effort and no small amount of money.

CAROL HARRIS: It takes behavior modification as well as oftentimes medications overtakes the work of your veterinarian in conjunction with good behavior specialist.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We hear a lot about doggie daycare these days places where you can go if you are afraid to leave your dog alone or if your dog doesn't like being left alone you can bring it to a place that they will, you know, take care of the dog and let it run around and so forth. What you think about that, Carol?

CAROL HARRIS: I think they are great but you need to do due diligence just as you would with a child going into a school you need to do the same thing with your dog going into a daycare. There are very good daycares out there and very poor daycares. You need to look at the training of the staff, you need to look at the ratio of the dogs to the staff, how many dogs is one person watching, what is the training for breaking up fights, for stopping bullying, for encouraging program play. You need to look into whether the dogs have rest periods or whether it is a free-for-all for eight hours, you need to look at are the dogs allowed to eliminate in any area where they are at or are they taken to an outside area.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Which is best, outside?

CAROL HARRIS: Outside is best because we teach them to eliminate inside that teaches them to eliminate inside.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I wonder, Katy, are the doggie day care places are they generally pretty expensive?

KATY ALLEN: They're fairly expensive, if you do it five days a week you could be spending $30 a day maybe.

CAROL HARRIS: Sometimes upwards of $45 a day.

KATY ALLEN: That's a lot of money. I do see dogfight victims coming to see me or they picked up a virus or parasite if the places are not kept quite so clean. So it is not without its dangers and it's a huge drain for somebody on my budget, that is a huge drain.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I went to pick up on what you talked about giving a proper exercise to your dog is that both morning and evening, Katy?

KATY ALLEN: Yes absolutely.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Carol how long should one be?

CAROL HARRIS: It depends on the dog I say they should be walked until they're mentally and physically tired if they are a 12-year-old Labrador that maybe down the street if it's a one-year-old Australian Shepherd it might be 7, 8 or 10 miles. It depends on the dog but you need to, you cannot just lock them in the same area all the time because mentally they get bored you need to take them different places and expose them to different things in, walks if you're doing a lot of training on the walks if you stimulate them on the walk that is up to them as well it's up to the individual dog as to how long it needs to be. My service dog that I have my working dog he generally is good after about 3 miles that's about where he would like to be. He does not mind a seven or 8 mile hike about 3 miles is about good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering Katy, do you think shelters and adoption agencies and so forth make the point strongly enough that dogs are creatures that need to be walked, they need exercise, they need to get out of the house.

KATY ALLEN: I think they did the best they can. We have a lot of shelter and Humane Society animals, and because most vegetarians will do a free examination and where I work they do some free treatments as well so we see a lot of the animals coming and they come in with a lot of paperwork, several pages, small type about what the problems the animals has had at the shelter, what behavioral, medical problems what they need to do to look after and but I don't know anybody that read it through to the end severe giving information on but not in a way that's going to strike home.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is that if one were to, he to think about it if someone were to adopt the dog and get home and maybe it's an adult dog or maybe a dog that had issues they were not aware of when they first adopted the dog, can animals be taken back to the shelter or are there some shelters that basically say that what is yours?

CAROL HARRIS: They all have rules, the a lot of individual regulations and some have a set time period when the dog can be brought back some will take it back at any time, some it depends on what it's being brought back for. You need to look into that when you get the dog you need to be doing due diligence and knowing what the return policy is.

KATY ALLEN: And also like I said you can usually get a free examination from a veterinarian within the first 10 days of adopting a dog from a shelter or humane society. Please take us up on that. Don't come in the next day because it can take a few days for numbness to develop, but take a within the time period. So you know what you've got because you want to buy a “and if it's an unhealthy animal you need to know that before everybody in the family has fallen in love and it's too late.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I would imagine that for both of you most of the behavioral problems was problems that families or individuals encounter with dog with her separation anxiety or a behavior problem that it can be fixed. Is that right, Carol?

CAROL HARRIS: In most situations, yes. But there is the caveat of is the owner capable of doing the work, is the owner willing to do the work, is the owner financially in a position to pay for the help that the work is going to need because the behavioral problems it is such a huge span. So everything from my dog is not housebroken which is very simple to solve in most circumstances as long as the dog is healthy to my dog is biting the neighbor's child. That's a major and that's a different ball of wax completely. So saying that most behavior problems are solvable, yes, with the right resources, with the right owner yesterday. That is workable, those are all things to be taken into consideration.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Katy, do you agree?

KATY ALLEN: I fully with certain prompts it could be a danger even to the person is trying to fix it for them, so that is a huge thing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay so I'm taking away from this is everybody get up and a half earlier and walk your dog. I've been speaking with Carol Harris owner of the educated pet. Dr. Katy Allen of Canterbury tales veterinary services thank you both very much.

BOTH: It's been our pleasure, thank you.