My friend bullies her dog

She leaves her midsize shepherd mutt in a crate, in the car, in a parking garage, in the dark

Published October 10, 2011 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (<a href=''>Zach Trenholm</a>/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I have a friend who bullies and mistreats her dog, but she is completely oblivious to what she's doing wrong. She adopted a puppy at 6 weeks of age about two years ago, so her dog came to her as a blank slate (let's call her dog "Bella"). Bella  is a real sweetie -- a midsize Shepherd mutt that's smart, high energy, submissive and overly anxious. I tried to help my friend start off on the right path with training by hooking her up with a friend of mine who is a dog trainer. I got her to enroll in classes and gave her my best advice for taking care of Bella. The problem is that she doesn't seem to listen to anyone or follow through on training. She leaves Bella in a crate for very long periods of time. Bella is in a crate most of the day and sometimes in her car, in a crate, in a parking garage with no light. She was crating Bella at night too, but I got her to stop doing that. My friend makes good money and can afford a daytime dog walker and other dog care services. I've suggested multiple times that she should consider a daily dog walker for Bella, but she just ignores my advice.

The whole thing is very upsetting to me because I'm a huge dog lover and have lots of experience working with dogs. I've contemplated ending our friendship over this issue. Frankly, I consider her mistreatment of her dog to be like what they do to torture victims (cramped space, no light, no exercise). I'm having a really hard time tolerating her obnoxious behavior. I'm afraid that I'll blow up at her and then I'll never be able to get her to change this behavior and help Bella. I've spoken up multiple times, only to be shot down with some defensive comment every time and lots of preemptive "Isn't my dog the best dog ever?!" kind of comments. Like I said, totally oblivious and obnoxious! On top of over-crating Bella, she doesn't interact with Bella enough, give Bella enough exercise, and she can be a bully with Bella by trying to force Bella to follow commands. There's no hitting, but lots of unpleasant vocal tones and stubbornness on my friend's part. Poor Bella has grown into a neurotic mess because of this mistreatment.

There are some days when I have a powerful urge to take Bella away from her. Several times I've come home after hanging out with her and burst into tears because I feel like I'm not doing enough to protect Bella. To top it all off, she is spending lots of time now with a friend who has her own dog "Jimmy" and is outright abusive to Jimmy. Her friend hits Jimmy, grabs him by the scruff of the neck and twists his skin, and yells at Jimmy constantly. I've told her friend outright to stop hitting and yelling at her dog, but she was defiant. I know that Jimmy's owner is a lost cause and we're not really friends anyway. Do you have any advice for what I could say to my friend that might get her to address these issues? I keep looking for some kind of script for how to talk to her about this, but I'm at a total loss. I've done everything short of yelling at her. I'm not sure I can continue this friendship if she continues to treat Bella in this horrible manner.  

Disheartened by Dog Bullies

Dear Disheartened,

I suggest you put your friend in a crate inside a car in a dark parking garage. Tell her you'll be right back and leave her there for five hours.

When you come back, if she asks for water, pretend not to understand what she's saying.

If she starts making unpleasant whining noises, yell at her and bang on the crate with a stick. If she wets her pants, yell at her some more and bang on the crate, and then leave her without water.

That should help.

That's how some people think. How do you change how people think? I wish I knew.

Some people think you change how other people think by yelling at them and beating them with sticks. History shows that doesn't work very well.

By Cary Tennis

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