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Trainer: Beware the 'boomerang' adoption dogs

By BEA LEWIS
Sunday News Correspondent

May 26. 2018 10:37PM

Professional dog trainer Dan Richard of Barnstead and his German Shepherd “Charlie” display the off-leash heeling that has helped them win national competitions. (Bea Lewis/Sunday New Correspondent)



Homeless dogs from southern states are being shipped to New Hampshire, and some are presenting their new owners with fangs instead of friendship.

“Love does not fix all temperament problems,” says Dan Richard of Barnstead, who for 28 years has trained dogs for international competition, law enforcement, the military and the federal government.

New Hampshire has done a good job of managing unwanted pets, and as a result has become a popular spot to bring dogs in need of new homes.

Richard­ — who grew up in Manchester and first got involved with dogs while serving in the Air Force — said dogs shipped up from Florida and other points south are represented on the internet as being “rescued” or “saved” when, in some cases, they have become a money maker.

Some websites “lie to people about the dog’s background. It’s all roses until the dog’s true temperament exposes itself and they have huge problems — it’s biting people, turning on the owner or attacking other dogs,” he said.

Potential adopters are sometimes told a dog is a boxer mix for example, when in reality it is a pit bull, he said.

“They give it a different name to negate the connotations of the breed,” continued Richard.

Since his return to the state four years ago, Richard said he is seeing a growing number of dogs that have been adopted from rescue organizations that are making life miserable for their new owners.

His advice is, "Adopter, beware."

“Walt Disney has given us the wrong understanding of a dog,” Richard said of people’s tendency to assign human characteristics to their pets.

“We are compassionate as a society,” he said, which makes many people willing to open their home to a dog and want to keep it even after learning that as a result of its temperament it may harm them or others.

Boomerang dogs

What shocked him the most was the discovery of what he terms “boomerang” dogs, typically small cute breeds.

The rescue movement used to include only shelters, but today it has an expansive network of home-based nonprofits, too. In some cases the dogs have become a “cash cow” for rescue groups that are generally organized as nonprofit charities and raise money through fundraisers, adoption fees, grants and bequests, Richard said.

Adopters pay several hundred dollars in fees to take the dog home and sign a contract that mandates that in the event they are unable to keep it, the dog must be returned to the rescue group.

“They know what they have put in motion,” Richard said. “These dogs are a commodity. They adopt them out, the new owners are unable to manage them and they are returned, and the cycle is repeated again and again.”

Denise Gelinas of Candia was the adopter of just such a dog. A white fluffy Maltese terrier-mix “Boo-Boo” proved to be a lion in a 13-pound body.

Gelinas turned to Richard for help. At their first meeting, Richard recounted Boo-Boo promptly bit him on the leg and then spun and lifted his leg, urinating on the trainer’s vest hung from the back of a nearby chair.

“I was mortified,” recounted Gelinas, who said she sought Richard out as the tiny dog she’d fallen in love with was growling at her husband and others.

“If it wasn’t for Dan I would not have Boo-Boo today,” said Gelinas, explaining she was on the verge of having to send the dog back when she found the website for Richard’s Alpha Dog Training and contacted him.

Gelinas declined to name the out of state shelter from which she adopted the dog. She had wanted a little white dog and searched online for about six months before finding him.

It was only after experiencing the dog’s negative behaviors that she began researching online and discovered that he had two prior owners and that behavioral assessments declared that he was fearful and anxious and should only be placed in a home where he would receive behavioral training.

“We knew nothing about these warning flags,” prior to the adoption, Gelinas said.

Following a three-week stay with Richard, Boo-Boo is now back home with the Gelinas family, but continues with regular training sessions.

“Nerve and character are a critical part of the assessment of a dog’s temperament,” Richard said.

Prospective adopters or buyers should hire a knowledgeable consultant or go to a shelter that temperament tests and adheres to an established adoption protocol, he advises.

Those looking to adopt a homeless dog should consider their local humane society or animal welfare organization that has a testing and adoption protocol in place, Richard said. He has volunteered his temperament-evaluation expertise to animal welfare organizations in New Hampshire.

“You shouldn’t be meeting someone off Exit 5 pulling a trailer to pick up a dog,” said Richard.


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