just goes to show what giving dogs in shelters some training can do… make them adoptable… and giving prisoners another chance at life… imagine having a child when you are 13 years old and still a child yourself…
Tamar Geller: The way wolves interact with each other—the way wolves train each other—is extremely different than the way people train dogs. Dogs have a wolf side, they also have a toddler part. You give two kids the same toy, and one of them is taking the toy away and body blocking the other. You see two dogs play, it’s the same thing. Dogs have to assess the pecking order without actually fighting. They need each one in the pack to help in the hunt, so if they hurt each other physically, it’s going to hurt themselves. The one with the control of the resources is the one in charge. I go to homes where people have behavioral problems with dogs, I see toys all over the floor—a free for all. What it means to the dog is that the owner loves them, but he’s not the leader.
You do not want to deal with aggression with force. Challenge [your dog] the way a wolf would, which is playing tug of war. This is the last sequence of the hunt, where they wrestle the animal down on the ground. The one who ends up with the food is the leader of the pack. It’s a game that looks very vicious—but it’s not because it’s got a lot of boundaries. So tug of war, when you follow the rules, can establish that you are the leader of the pack.
My [dog center] is phenomenal. It’s two stories, 6,000 square feet. We have the doggie lounge for the mellow dog upstairs. Downstairs we have the floors and the tunnels and the equipment. It’s so much freakin’ fun. We help a lot of dogs that have been abused by trainers, or not been socialized. They come here and they blossom. They start trusting people again, they start trusting dogs again.
I had to fight animal regulation. It cost me the price of a small house. [They] wanted me to divide dogs by size not by personality. I said, “So what? Because I’m five foot one, less than 100 pounds I’m not allowed to talk with people who are six foot seven?” I got an animal rights lawyer, and I got a political lawyer who helped me to work within the system. And you know what, of course I won.
I hate the word discipline and I hate the word obedience. I believe in manners. Who the heck am I to tell you how to raise your dog? I love dogs, but I tell you what—I love people. I say, “How can I make your relationship with your dog the best it could be? That’s my goal. Not to get your dog to fit into some kind of a box.
We all have the fairy tale. We think, My God! This will be the relationship that will fulfill me—whether it’s your Prince Charming, your brand new baby, or when you’re getting a puppy. When life gives challenges, most people would not give up on their children. Unfortunately a lot of people give up on their dog. I want people to have the reality check of, what does it mean to have any new relationship? You have the ideal, and then it’s going to be real life. You can be the best thing that could ever happen to your dog’s life. Like any relationship, it’s a give and take. We are so lucky that we have the love in us to give to dogs.
Everybody says, “Let’s whisper to our animals.” But what do they have to tell us? Let’s listen to what you, my precious dog, are trying to tell me—as opposed to me coming with blinders on, with agendas. Let’s try, all of us, to listen to our animals. That’s my privilege—the unbelievable privilege—of working with animals.