CFN – Sitting in what was once the principal’s office at a school in Martintown, Ontario – the one Shannon Spooner bought and transformed into a multi-service, pet-centered mecca for clients who come from as far away as upstate New York, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – I learn that the hundreds of families who turn to Shannoncourt do so, not only for help with their dogs and cats, but their horses, birds, rabbits and sometimes even their guinea pigs.
But minutes into our discussion, Shannon’s GM – Courtney – breaks in through the door with a serious look on her face.
She’s just had an urgent call from a client whose giant breed puppy has been hit by a car and sustained a crushed pelvis. Now discharged by the vet for at-home recovery, the client needs help. The family can’t manage the dog’s care so is turning to Shannoncourt.
Shannon and Courtney immediately run through a rudimentary care plan. The dog can’t walk so will need help with toileting and hygiene, feeding, comfort and “gentle” sensory stimulation.
Suddenly, I know I have to wrap up the interview. Shannon and Courtney have work to do including briefing their 16-member team.
So I ask Shannon to summarize what rises to the top. Meaning, I want her to tell me the top two things she finds her self repeating to people who says they want “the best” for their new puppy.
And in the name of happier, healthier, safer dogs, Shannon is quick to respond:
No. 1, (Scientific evidence shows…)
“Your puppy’s window of socialization will end at about 5 months. And ideally, should be exposed to about 100 non-threatening people and 50 dogs. ”
And No. 2, (Scientific evidence supports…)
“That working in partnership (versus merely exerting dominance and control over your dog) is the healthiest and safest way to train.”
But she also says that fun and creativity – perhaps the real artistry of animal training – cannot be separated from either No. 1 or 2. Here’s an example: LINK
So, what is the window of socialization?
Briefly, the period during which a dog learns to recognize, communicate with and enjoy the beings it comes into contact with, including: all-age, all skin-colour people, and other animals, such as cats, pet bunnies, birds and so forth.
It also includes new experiences like car rides, trips to the vet, motorcycles passing, doorbells ringing or the school bus pulling up at the end of the driveway.
Point being, all these (assuming no harm to the dog) will help a pup develop an even-tempered personality that’s fertile for lifelong learning.
And what is “working in partnership”?
Simply put, it’s about a dog owner showing leadership – the opposite of dominance and control – and extends to helping people learn how to consider a dog’s perspective of everyday experiences.
In other words, thinking and acting in partnership can:
- Foster greater respect for dogs – their needs and motivations;
- Help reduce or eliminate myths, such as that a dog is “stubborn” or might urinate on the floor to “get back” at its owner;
- Prevent abuses, such as hitting a dog or resorting to “shock collars”;
- Make training safer for both the human and the dog (dominance training can promote aggression);
- Provide opportunities to learn the most up-to-date scientific findings about dog psychology and training.
Of course, Shannon meets many dogs who have not had the best start in life and who require rehabilitation and sometimes a new home.
Meet Chevy. (He’s in the video at the top of the page.)
He’s a 15-month-old, neutered and vaccinated mixed breed. Chevy’s owner loves the dog so has placed him at Shannoncourt for the socialization and training he never got.
Shannon says, Chevy’s doing great. He’s available for adoption and Shannon is willing to give some “free” daycare and four additional training sessions for that special person who is willing to provide daily exercise and affection to this sweet boy who deserves a second chance.
For more information about Chevy, email Shannon at email@example.com
And remember, if there’s art in what you do, I want to hear from you via <a href=”firstname.lastname@example.org”