Treatment of Dogs: The great divide.
There are many ideas about how dogs should be treated. What do you think?
On lazy saturday mornings my fiance sleeps in while the dog and I eat eggs together. He gets one scrambled egg with a dash of cheese, while I get an omelette. He scarfs his down while I relax on the couch and drink my coffee. After breakfast we take a leisurely walk for an hour. Sometimes, if it’s chilly, he wears a sweater or jacket. Our Sundays are pretty similar. On not so relaxed weekends, he still gets his eggs and walk. Our routine is important. During the week, my fiance works from home so he feeds him wet food for lunch and they sit outside together. Our dog has three small bins of toys and constantly dumps them out so I have to pick them up. He loves fetch, stuffed animals, and squeaky balls. We have an 8 year old that is with us 50% of the time, and she is his best friend. He has gone to several dog training classes and goes to doggy daycare regularly. He’s only 15 lbs, but his intelligence is great. We’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old, and two years later he has only had two accidents in the house. He learns tricks quickly, he knows the names of the people in our family, and in his own doggy way tries to communicate with us.
Now, I do have a reason for telling you about my dog. Over the years of being an animal lover and specifically a dog lover, I have noticed a great divide in how people treat their pets. The way I see our life with our dog, I would say he is treated well and lives a full happy life. Others would think that his life is too good for a dog. Why do we buy him booties and jackets for the winter? He’s a dog, he’s fine! Why does he have so many toys? Don’t train with treats! Why do you talk to him like he understands you? Why won’t you just leave him outside all day? Why do you care so much about a dumb animal? I do admit making him a dog cake on his birthday is more for him than me, but it’s fun. Otherwise I try my best to make sure his life is full of fun and he doesn’t know mistreatment.
There is a thought that animals cannot love or feel, which is extremely wrong. “You are just personifying him, he doesn’t actually love you.” I do think animals love in their own ways, just because it’s not in a human sense does not mean they do not love. In fact, dogs have the same chemical changes that we do when they feel love and affection. “Ok, they feel but they aren’t smart!” Dogs have the same emotional and intellectual abilities as a two-four year old child. It doesn’t matter how large or small the dog is, they are all worthy of fair treatment and love.
That being said, dogs are not children and should not be treated as such. Children have to be taught growth and independence, while dogs will always be a “toddler”. They can learn tricks and get used to a certain lifestyle, but will never replace or be a child. They will never understand why you are yelling at them, or why you have smacked them with a newspaper. I do not believe in hitting children or animals, and anyone who does ranks very low on my respect meter. It’s been proven though multiple studies that hitting children is not effective. So why would hitting, shaking, or scaring your dog be effective?
An old school of thought for training dogs was Dominance Theory, which has been debunked. I grew up helping my grandmother train German Shepherds for search and rescue and police work. In the 90’s the idea was to show your dog that you were the alpha, which we have now learned is not important. Your dog needs to know that you are a safe place that hands out treats and pets freely. Why would any sane creature go to someone they know will hurt them? By showing your dog every time they do something right they get a snack, toy, or pat they will be more willing to learn. They will look to you for direction, you are the pack leader and their trusted partner.
Dogs are social animals. What does that mean? It means they like to be around their families or “packs” and encounter extreme emotional distress when they are not with their loved ones. There are many ways to help dogs ease their distress, and having a properly socialized dog helps too. It’s important to teach your dog socialization with other animals and people. If you have a puppy you need to have them take at least one puppy training class, or have them be around other dogs. Older dogs who missed out on socialization can still benefit from classes, but remember to let the trainer you are working with know all the issues your dog has. Our dog has gone through training and daycare at emBark. I would recommend going with a local trainer, like we did, and not Petsmart.
I’m going to be honest, I have no time in my life for people who treat their dogs or other pets as objects or ornaments. Knowing what your dog was bred to do will help ensure you treat them properly. Our dog is a Bichon, miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, and Matlese. His breeding means that he is highly alert and barks often, is a companion dog, but with the poodle mixed in he also has a drive for hunting. So I have to make sure he gets enough play in to counteract that hunting desire and he also gets a lot of one on one time to fulfill his desire to be a companion. He is one of the smartest and most loving dogs I’ve ever owned, but it’s due to the time and effort we have put into him. To get the most out of your dog, you need to put love and effort into them.
Many of you probably read this article and thought it was common sense, while others may have been surprised. There may have been links to articles that contradict how you treat your animal. A big controversy is leaving your dog outside alone all day. People can argue that their dog prefers to be outside and not in the house, which can be true! It’s still important to make sure their leash is long enough, they have access to food and water, and if there is any extreme weather they have a shelter. My grandma had an outside dog and would come in during storms or extreme temperatures. He was a very happy healthy dog who lived to be 13. He was well trained and taken care of to ensure he had a fulfilling life. At the end of the day our behaviors and choices determine our pet’s lives. Let’s make sure they have excellent ones.