As a professional trainer I have learned about things that unhappy pet dog owners complain most about, which logically contribute to loss of homes for dogs and unfortunate euthanasia in some cases. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior ( http://avsabonline.org/) the leading cause of death for dogs three years of age and younger are behavioral problems, most of which can be prevented.
When a frustrated dog owner contacts me for help my first thoughts often are: 1) The owner picked the wrong dog for their lifestyle; 2) The owner had a young puppy, but did not socialize it and now have an older dog they can not stand to live with. Perhaps 90% of dog behavioral problems are due to lack of socialization and simple training. Among animal behaviorists it is widely accepted that 85-90% of bites involve frightened dogs. To simplify the equation, an un-socialized (or under-socialized) puppy will grow into a fearful adolescent/adult dog. I am not exercising judgment or criticism of dog owners; I am acknowledging two significant risk factors that contribute to dog surrenders and euthanasia. If we understand why these things occur then we can proactively prevent them.
Robin Bennett recently posted an informative article ("Choosing a Dog, Part 1: Describe Your Perfect Dog") at http://www.robinkbennett.com/. I agree with her advice and urge folks who are considering bringing a dog into their lives to first think it through. Years ago Dr. Ian Dunbar wrote a book titled "Before and After Getting Your Puppy." More recently he created two ebooks which he offers for free in PDF format on his web site: http://www.dogstardaily/. The first is now called "Before Getting Your Puppy" and the other is titled "After Getting Your Puppy." I think too many people neglect to think about the "before" part of the equation and are left to deal with the aftermath. By the time they get around to contacting a trainer or behaviorist the dog behavior problems they can no longer stand are deeply established and much harder to remedy.
Here is an example of how this process often develops. When I first met Ranger, an Australian Shepherd, he was a two-year old dog on death row. An elderly lady bought Ranger as a puppy and kept him in her apartment with no beneficial exercise, mental stimulation or socialization. For an intelligent high-energy herding dog that must have been torture, and his behavior deteriorated over the next 18 months until the owner could no longer stand it. She surrendered him to a rescue group and upon professional advice, the group reluctantly decided it was best to euthanize him. Ranger found himself an unstable and unwanted young dog as a direct result of human error. He was not the right dog for the lady who brought him into her life and she failed to act in his best interests; His prospects were poor. (You can find his story in the Buddha Speaks archive)
When Buddha speaks next he will address the topic of socialization. The first step is to pick the right dog; the second step is to thoroughly socialize it. An error in either case can create a miserable outcome for people and dogs alike, but with helpful information and a bit of effort up front, people and their dogs can enjoy a wonderful relationship and a long, happy life together. A helpful third step is to train your dog, and of course, continue reinforcing good socialization throughout the life of the dog.
Daniel H. Antolec