From a press release from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Babs Chandrasoma
"Marley and Me" A Heartwarming Film But Not A Guide For Dog Owners
GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND (December 26th, 2008)- "Marley and Me", a film based on John Grogan's life with his loveable but unruly Labrador Retriever, is a wonderful example of the depth of the human-animal bond. However, much of Marley's "bad" behavior was unknowingly created by his well meaning but poorly prepared owners and some of it was an anxiety disorder called storm phobia.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) makes the following recommendations.
Puppies require a great deal of time, attention, and training. Prospective owners should be well educated and prepared to begin teaching good manners from the minute they get the puppy. Waiting until the puppy is so large that he is uncontrollable will make the process much more difficult.
Owners should enroll puppies in puppy classes as soon as possible. This is important for the owner's education and for socialization of the puppy. This should be arranged before the puppy comes home.
Unruly behaviors such as jumping, pulling on the leash, and chewing household items can be prevented in the adult dog by teaching and rewarding mannerly and appropriate behavior in growing puppies.
At no point was "Marley"� trying to be the "alpha male of the pack", as claimed by the film's dog trainer. Training does not require "dominance"� and harsh corrections. Being a good leader by training and reinforcing desired behavior using positive reinforcement is the safest and most effective way to train puppies. For example, kneeing Marley in the chest to stop jumping up was potentially dangerous, completely ineffective, and unnecessary. Simply teaching him from puppyhood to sit for petting would have eliminated that problem.
Many dogs suffer from behavior problems that are unrelated to traditional training. For example, destruction and vocalization during storms often occurs because of the well-recognized condition of storm phobia. This condition is very treatable by veterinarians with a special interest or certification in animal behavior. "Most veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists see this problem very commonly. Treatment at an early age can alleviate stress experienced by the family and improves the quality of life for the dog itself,"� said Dr. John Ciribassi, Immediate Past President of AVSAB and owner of the Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants.
Viewers should resist the temptation to adopt a puppy or dog based on a movie. What is on the screen is entertainment, not reality, even if it based on a true story. Shelters were filled with Dalmatians purchased after people saw the Disney film "101 Dalmatians" several years ago. Once the adorable little puppies grew up into rambunctious and destructive young adults, many owners simply dumped them.
"Having a dog in your life can be a tremendously satisfying and enriching,"msaid Dr. E. Kathryn Meyer, AVSAB President and owner of Veterinary Behavior Clinic in Gaithersburg, MD. "However, there is a significant level of commitment required and it is a decision that should not be made lightly."� AVSAB has published position papers on Puppy Socialization, Choosing a Trainer, The Use of Punishment, and Dominance Theory in the Behavior Modification of Animals. These documents are available at AVSABonline.org.[/b]