Buy Photo

Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Columnist Sherry Davis.

After all these years, I still find it beyond comprehension that some dog owners allow potentially dangerous behavior to get so out of control before seeking help.

Instead of investing a minimal amount of time and money in training a puppy during its formative months to prevent bad habits from developing, troublesome and undesirable behaviors go unchecked and are allowed to snowball into what can ultimately become a point of no return.

One such situation involves a retriever/shepherd cross, which the owner tells me was adopted at 6 weeks of age. He's now one year old, and, the owner says, "Very large, almost as tall as me standing up and very sweet and playful, but I've been having problems with him since he was a puppy."

And the list of problems is long:

* He was never taught to walk on a leash and collar, which means she can't take him to the vet for shots or on a walk.

* The owner is afraid that if she could take him out, he would attack other dogs or joggers in the neighborhood

* He growls and snaps at the grandchildren and adults if they get near him when he has a bone or other high-value food.

* He's afraid of strangers or people he doesn't see very often. He'll put his hair up, go into his dog house and growl.

* He nipped a relative who was visiting, and her grandchildren are afraid "he'll turn on them."

The owner says she loves the dog and doesn't want to give up on him.

Problems of this kind are almost always preventable and a result of ignorance, which is why I started writing this column in the first place. I hoped that by helping people to have a better understanding of dog behavior, fewer dogs would be surrendered to shelters. But sometimes I want to take hold of an owner, shake him or her, and demand to know their priorities. No matter how much you love a dog, if it is aggressive, it has no business being around children. Ever.

This dog is a classic case of a puppy who wasn't socialized with the outside world or given any training during the early months of his life. His fear and distrust of anything unfamiliar, along with his physical size, has grown. In his own environment where he feels more confident, he is controlling the actions of this family. The air snapping and growling over food and bones have just been warnings, but will soon escalate into something far worse.

This poor dog will probably lose his home and the only family he's ever known due to his lengthy list of prohibitive behaviors. These are behaviors which, unlike a fine wine, don't get better with age.

-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/ owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@yahoo. com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.