OWNER EDUCATION - A PYR-PRIORITY?

Catherine de la Cruz
Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California

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In each of the above case, one major thing was needed: owner education. And in each of these case, the Pyr owner that helped was performing a major function of Rescue.

Not all "Rescue" cases involve taking a stray animal out of the pound or finding a lost dog. A large number involve listening to a concerned owner, educating that owner about care, behavior, the Standard, and gently guiding them to a decision that is in the best interest of the breed. Then, we need to support the owner in that decision in the same way we would support a fellow club-member.

Those of us fortunate to belong to strong regional clubs often take for granted the support systems available to us. We often forget that those outside the system may not know how to find us when they need support - may not, in fact, even know that we exist.

How can we make it easier for "outsiders" to find out about our breed, our Clubs, our support systems? Our breed is no longer rare; it may be purchased from a pet store, adopted from the pound or picked up from a give-away ad in the weekly shopper. Regardless of our own motives for owning a Great Pyrenees, we owe it to the "good of the breed" we love to pay attention to dogs and owners "outside" our systems.

The GPCA takes a small step when it gives the name of local GPCA members and clubs to those inquiring about the breed. But what about reaching those who don't even know there is a national breed club? Some sources of information for new owners include: the local shelter, veterinarians, feed stores, pet shops that sell only supplies and groomers.

A good first step for members willing to help newcomers is to put a card, a poster or a copy of their local bulletin (with their home phone number) in some of the above places. How about giving your vet a subscription to your bulletin for Christmas? When you ask your groomer to advertise in your specialty catalog, give her some back copies of your bulletin for waiting room reading.

Many members regularly check the "free" and "Pets for Sale" columns in their local papers. This enables them to contact owners who may not even know they have a problem. If the dog is already placed, an offer to contact the new owner with breed information usually brings a positive reaction. Result: one more owner who knows where to call for help.

Questions new and prospective owners ask run the gamut from where to get a dog, through feeding, grooming, breeding and behavior problems. If a person does contact you with a problem you can't handle, refer them to more expert help - a more experienced owner, a vet who knows Pyrs, a trainer who has worked with Pyrs - but also make an effort to assure the caller that you are concerned about his problem. Follow up in a couple of days to see if additional assistance is needed.

The cost of all this help? The price of a phone call and a few minutes of your time. The cost of not helping may be enormous - an animal that is either endangered itself, or one that presents a danger to the breed or the public.

At your next meeting or get-together, compile a list of members willing to talk to new or prospective owners. Note their particular fields of interest - obedience, Livestock Dogs, grooming - and distribute this list among the members of your club. It doesn't matter what you title the list, so long as everyone knows that this is a source for education about the breed. Remember, no matter how little you feel you know, it is probably a bit more than the person you called you --- if nothing else, you know one very important thing: where to find what he needs to know.

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