Malign Neglect?

June 24, 2008 at 4:42 am 2 comments

I had a private training session today with a small designer breed dog.  He was a teenager, originally purchased as a baby puppy by a busy family as a gift for their tweenage children.  The novelty of this new puppy wore off early and the poor little fellow was quickly consigned to a life of being shuttled back and forth between crate and tie out.  Fortunately for the pup, after a few months his owners tired of even this effort and they gave him up.

His new owner quickly realized that the little dog had potential and that she’d need help bringing it out.  When they arrived all you saw of this young dog was a wild bouncing mouth – endlessly leaping up and latching (albeit gently) onto ANYTHING within reach.  It seemed the only reactions he knew were to jump up or mouth.

The truly wonderful thing about this little dog was how quickly and easily he was willing to change that behavior provided with little more than touch and treats to guide him.  You would not have guessed it by observing his behavior when he arrived, but he is a very bright and biddable little fellow.  And to bring out this potential, all we really needed to do was stay calm and make sense to him. 

In one hour the little dog went from rude leaping mouthiness to cheerfully and agreeably sitting, lying down and doing simple tricks. 


Benign neglect is defined as:

Doing nothing about a problem, in the hope that it will not be serious or will be solved by others; or as

An attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one is held to be responsible for dealing with

The word benign is defined as:

Not dangerous to health; not recurrent or progressive (especially of a tumor);

Neutral or harmless in its effect or influence; or

Pleasant and beneficial in nature or influence.

So…how is it that when someone gets a dog, doesn’t exercise it, doesn’t train it and — in fact — refuses to take any sort of proactive part in the animal’s life whatsoever (which almost inevitably results in the dog being endlessly confined to a kennel or tie out — or worse yet, in its death….)  …that we refer to this as “benign neglect”?

There’s absolutely nothing pleasant, beneficial, harmless or frankly – even neutral about it.

IMO, “malign neglect” is a far better term.  Malign is defined as:

Of an evil nature or character, evil in influence; injurious;

A  clinical term that means to be severe and become progressively worse; or

Having or showing malice or ill will; malevolent.

Its also a transitive verb that refers to the act of criticizing somebody spitefully. 

That would be me.  Criticizing people who treat their dogs like this — and doing it spitefully

Entry filed under: cynicism, dog training, dogs. Tags: , .

Pythons Brutally Hacked! Six Word Memoirs – K9 Version

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Audie's Gramma  |  June 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    “He was abused.”

    #1 owner excuse for why their second-hand dog’s bad behavior cannot be changed — the implication being, the behavior comes from some major trauma, and to undo it would be cruelty.

    These folks imagine “abuse” in terms of whips and chains and boots to the butt. Poor babeee!

    I’ve recently even encountered people who bought pups at 7-8 weeks old, perhaps from an ill-advised source, and attribute the adult dog’s genetic or owner-induced shyness to “abuse” allegedly suffered at the breeders’ home. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. (Though, on a meta-level, I am sometimes inclined to class the act of introducing the animal’s ill-starred parents to one another as abuse in its most primal form.)

    But what I see, in the cases where the first home really was a problem, is the result of NEGLECT.

    Indulged and played with as a puppy, no limits, no training, no thought to the animal’s future or the realities of learning and development. Treated as a toy, a literal toy. And when the toy breaks under this regimen, generally in a matter of weeks, the secondary neglect — locked in the basement, crate-to-tether, two squares of Old Roy a day, nothing else.

    Give me a boot the ass any day.

  • 2. jan  |  June 24, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I’m always amazed at how little correction is needed for a dog that has been ignored by previous owners. They want so desperately to please and just need some direction.

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