Skip to main content

Soft Paws: A circumference of safety

Pictured are CGHS/SPCA Adoption Counselor Shelbie Smith and our friendly shelter resident, Bear. Bear is a very intelligent, energetic 6-month-old Staffordshire Terrier mix. Bear is good with cats, dogs and older children. With the right home, we have no doubt she will be the missing piece to your family. Bear has so much potential, and with training and lots of love, she will thrive in her new home - maybe that’s you.
October 8, 2019 11:32 am Updated: October 8, 2019 11:49 am


You can’t have it both ways. Either you define the area around you as Dr. Phil’s “a safe place to fall” for your resident canine companions, or you don’t.

Mother Nature puts a circumference of safety around all of her creatures. This designated physical area is drawn with a black magic marker in the defensive minds of our canines. If that area is violated or threatened, our dogs experience passive or active defense drive. It’s the main reason they act out of character at the veterinarian’s office during an exam, the reason they may snap when a strange hand extends toward them, the reason they may nip when grabbed, the reason they shy from a collar grab, etc.

We need to use our training (or counter-conditioning) tools to desensitize our predatory 4-legged partners. Our use of games like track it around-the-world, overhead turn revolution games, spoon targets, restraint from behind, all allow us to re-program and control undesirable defense drive. In addition, our dogs must be taught that the immediate area around us is correction-free — this is much easier to accomplish than most people think. Remember dog handlers, your dog either trusts you or not. There’s no middle ground here. Find out what an incredible relationship awaits you both, when this tenant of correct pack leadership is followed.

My German shepherd dog pack taught me these lessons with certainty and conviction. My Number 1 dogs gave clear directions, were confident, easy to understand, protective, empowering, nurturing and safe. They oversaw the survival of the pack, under my ultimate guidance. They consistently reinforced a very positive pack management style, teaching me some very valuable lessons about proper pack education, ranking, and relationships. For those of you bringing new animals into your lives, seek out knowledgeable training classes while these youngsters and newcomers are like wet sponges – soaking up life lessons and the rules of the new household. Don’t wait until old haunts or habits return. The brains of our dogs (like ourselves) are hardwired with behaviors that we may need to change. Most of these changes can be made easier and faster than you think! I’ll address transitioning, crating adjustment, and the parameters of the “new baby” in my next column.

Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044 or visit Stop down and see us at 111 Humane Society Road, off Route 66 (about a mile south of the intersection with Route 9H) in Hudson. Our hours are 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. every day. The Food Bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food anytime during business hours. All of our cats and kittens are “Furrever Free” with all expenses paid. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $76 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available 10-11 a.m. every Saturday at the shelter, no appointment necessary, for a donation of $5 for cats and $10 for dogs. Charlene Marchand is the Chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at