Good Dog! (Sometimes)

Category: Gary's Column, Winter 2018 259 0
San Diego Pets Magazine
Amanda Kowalski, MS, CPDT-KA, director of San Diego Humane Society’s Behavior Center, and Behavior Center graduate Roxy, a 9-year-old American pit bull-boxer mix, brave the San Diego winter at Waterfront Park.

Jake, my 12-year-old German shepherd, is defiant. We’ve gone through at least half a dozen trainers. That’s a new trainer every other year. He learns everything he’s supposed to, then decides to do the opposite. He outwits me every single day—and still I can’t imagine my life without him.

Behavior issues can sure test the bond between people and animals. It’s why I’m so proud of our Behavior Center. Since it opened in 2013 we’ve graduated more than 2,000 animals who wouldn’t otherwise have been eligible for adoption. Whether they’re big dogs, bully breeds or older pets with bad habits, many come in with challenges. We’ve dealt with some tough cases, including animals who are shy or fearful, show aggression, or have trouble walking on a leash.  But there is hope. Under the guidance of our dedicated trainers, these dogs and cats can learn new behaviors and often become ambassadors for their breed. Problem behaviors can sometimes take months to correct, but we impose no time limit. We stick with them until they’re ready for a new home.

Though our shelters are open admission—meaning we don’t turn any animal away—our staff still does everything they can to help owners keep their pets, whether through behavior training, medical care, providing food or supplies, working with landlords, or assistance during military deployments. Unfortunately, some people have no choice but to rehome a pet. In those cases, we’re there to help without judgment every step of the way. Recently launched gives owners another outlet for rehoming, in which they find new homes for their pets without using an intermediary like a shelter. It’s another tool available for those going through difficult times.

Jake’s home will always be with me. Lucky for us, the trainers at SDHS haven’t given up on either of us yet. Less lucky for my colleagues who have to put up with Jake every work day, but we’re an inseparable package deal (along with Jake’s “sister,” Betty).  I hope you enjoy this issue and look into the many options for cultivating good behavior at SDHS. If you ever want to be more impressed with your own dog or cat’s behavior, just think of Jake. He’s truly proof that good manners aren’t the only thing we appreciate in our pets, important as they may be.


Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA
President and CEO
San Diego Humane Society

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