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Helping Rescue Dogs: Are You a Negative or Positive Rescuer?

May 5th, 2010

I recently worked a rescue dog.  It brought home to me, once again, that some dogs are rescued, many are simply taken out of a one kind of bad situation and put into another kind of bad situation.

This dog was lucky in the fact that he fell into the hands of what I call a positive rescuer.

The first ugly truth which needs to be addressed is there are 2 types of people that rescue dogs:

The negative rescuer, which is much like Munchhausen by Leash (as I call it), where the person’s ego and emotional actions and decisions are based upon what THEY get from rescuing a dog and, if the truth is faced, don’t really care about the dog at all.  It was, is, and always will be, “I rescued this dog.  See what I am doing for him?  See how I am “helping” him?  Look how frightened he is, but I will love him back to “health”.  These are people that don’t want the dog to improve because they will lose their attention base.  Much like parents with physically or mentally challenged children who keep the kids tied to them so that the parent may show, do, impress upon others how much THEY sacrifice on behalf of the child.  There is no thought in the negative rescuer as to how they have limited the life of the dog, how little they are truly “helping” the dog improve and resume or assume a positive life full of social, emotional and physical positive interaction with the environment and world around them.  It is in their own self-interest to keep the dogs impaired in some form.

The Negative Rescuer, the “dark side”, “saves” dogs in order to:

  1. Be people who rescue so that they can feel better about themselves, fill some emotional hole in their own psyche
  2. Get kudos and emotional pats-on-the-back from the world for saving a poor, benighted dog
  3. Really do not want to change the mental/emotional condition of the dog because they DO get attention from others for saving the “poor thing”
  4. Are unwilling to change themselves, learn a better/new way of handling rescued dogs, or have the dog improve mentally because they, as a rescuer, will no longer be “needed”
  5. Get some kind of emotional charge out of showing the world how they are bringing the dog along, even if it means the dog lives for years in psychosis and fear
  6. Maintain that the dog is not “normal” and, therefore, must be handled in some “special” manner
  7. Believes that “rescuing” a dog is the be-all-end-all of the process and always uses the shibboleth “He was abused/neglected/rescued” to freeze the dog in time.
  8. Are willing to let the dog remain in a very bad place, emotionally/socially/psychologically in order to continue feeding their own emotional needs

The positive rescuer is honest about the dog’s mental state and wants improvement.  The rescuer, himself, is not what is truly important, but doing right by the dog IS the primary goal.  These people will refuse to accept that the dog is defined by where he came from and how he used to live.  They focus on making a whole dog, one that can live comfortably in the world.  These rescuers will be brutally honest about what problems the dog still faces, that they need help changing the problems, and that the dog can become independent and secure.  These rescuers realize and admit that they are merely the means to an end for the dog.  The dog is not a means to an emotional end for them.

The Positive Rescuer, the “light” side, saves dogs in order to:

  1. Give them an improved life, physically, mentally & emotionally
  2. Is willing to go the extra mile to find out if there’s something that will help the dog achieve independence
  3. Will change themselves in order to help the dog improve
  4. Is always considering the whole dog first and foremost
  5. Is unwilling to let a dog live in fear, neurosis, mental instability for their own ego
  6. Understands that “rescuing” a dog is the easy part, making it whole again is where the work takes place.
  7. Is unwilling to burden the dog with what was his previous existence, but concentrates from the minute they get him on what IS and WILL BE his existence.

Many rescuers will try to kid themselves into believing that they are positive.  They aren’t.  They are VERY much the negative rescuer.  Until they are willing to take a long, hard look at themselves and change, they will ALWAYS be negative rescuers.

This is why I said at the beginning of this blog, “This dog was lucky in the fact that he fell into the hands of what I call a positive rescuer. ”

Often, because I’m called in to help rescued dogs with severe emotional problems, or even family dogs with behavioral problems, people believe that what I teach is only for “special” dogs.  However, more and more, what I do is being seen for what it is;  the right way to handle ALL dogs, regardless of their age, breed, or backgrounds.  It’s “right” because it works.  Because all dogs understand it.  Because it’s what dogs teach dogs and how they behave toward one another.

I will not make people feel comfortable by saying the “party” line, or what they want to hear.  I will not sell out by saying there are many ways to “train” a dog.  I will NOT lie to you.  Why?  Because for ME, the bottom line is the dog, his improvement, his overall well-being and all humans, including me, take a back seat to that.  My satisfaction and happiness comes when I see a dog relax, come into himself, become (even for a few moments) the great dog I know he can and should be, free from neurotic tendencies and feelings.

If I only had to work with dogs things would always go quickly and smoothly.  But, I have humans in the equation.  Thank GOD there are people out there who want to have their dog improve and are willing to do what is needed, accept a different, older and successful approach, do it right and not buy into the stupid that is being sold by inept and failing training methods, or put themselves and their emotions before the dog.   These are the people that call me in from around the U.S. to help.   They attend BOSS Dog Clinics to learn.  They change in order to effect change.

Here are a couple of photos of the dog we worked:

These are positive rescues, positive owners, positive trainers, positive people.  I can’t tell you how glad I am you all exist.  Now let’s work on changing others into becoming positive–for the dogs’ sake.

If you wish to see more photos, please go to Facebook

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  1. From Sandy, May 5, 2010:

    Courageous and truthful post. And the photos bring it home. Now, the reader must ask himself the question: “which one am I?” Will YOU have this much courage?

  2. From Maggie, May 6, 2010:

    I LOVED this post…there are some hard truths here. I really struggle with that tension between what makes me feel emotionally fulfilled by my dogs and what the dogs need to be happy and stable. It’s intellectually fulfilling to see them calm and listening and thinking, but it brings me little pleasure to be the disciplinarian. I needed to hear this. Thanks for the post.

  3. From Crystal Gillen, May 7, 2010:

    Susan you are an amazing woman and the things I have seen you do with our animals are nothing short of amazing. After being in rescue, and seeing what we see, when watching you work can actually bring tears to our eyes, no one can question the honesty in that. With some dogs, we have done all we know, and when we’ve all but given up, we know to call in a pro, and you will always be our pick of the litter! It hasn’t mattered what the circumstance for the call, an unruly critter, maybe one that’s fearful of everything, or maybe one that’s been just mistakenly spoiled rotten and overly loved (guilty!) when they were young…. you’ve “rescued” us by getting “US” back on track, and our dogs have always followed. Thanks Susan, for all you do!

  4. From Rosenda Oberman, October 26, 2010:

    Thanks for this kickass site, I’ve been visiting it for a few weeks now and its marvellous.

  5. From runescape hacks, January 14, 2011:

    Jeez, thank you for managing to use proper grammar. I checked at a couple before yours and it looked like a 5th grader wrote it…

  6. From serwis akwariow, January 16, 2011:

    Awesome put up, love the style of the internet site as well.

  7. From peter, January 25, 2011:

    thanks for the great post mate!

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