Are You Spoiling Your Dog or Destroying It?
My own dogs have always been a huge part of my life…better yet they have been my entire life! Because of this I have always hated the saying, “Dogs are man’s best friend”. Why man’s best friend? What about women? Then another saying proclaims that, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” I like to think that by “man” this slogan actually means “human” as in ALL mankind, rather than just the one gender. So if this is true that dogs are mankind’s best friend, then the next question plaguing me is, “When are we going to return the favor? When are we going to be dogs best friend?” Humans like to think that we spoil our dogs and I know 90% of us dog owners honestly do mean well when we love our dogs rotten, but we humans have made some huge mistakes in our selfish way of loving our dogs. Those owners who mean well when they spoil their dogs simply seem to forget that dogs are dogs. They have always been dogs, and always will be dogs. It seems to offend some people when I say that their dogs are indeed just that, dogs. I promise you this statement is not insensitive or coldhearted, it merely means that humans need to recognize what a dog is before they can give it what a dog truly needs. So lets call it what it is.
I recently saw this woman on television who was explaining her amazing undying love for her dog. This was not anything too out of the ordinary, seeing as 79% of Americans are devoted dog owners, but as this woman spoke I quickly realized that she was not just an ordinary dog lover. This woman proclaimed that her little Chihuahua needed to have clothes or else he was embarrassed and that he must be carried almost everywhere so his feet never touched the ground, except when doing his business on potty pads so that his feet wouldn’t get dirty. I wanted to scream through the television at this lady. Her dog was screaming at her in his own dog ways, but she was too consumed by her own delight in these human-like practices to ever stop and consider what her dog might really need or want. Dogs don’t worry about fashion, trust me! This is a human behavior that we place on our pets. They don’t care how they look, or smell for that matter. I mean these are the same dogs that we find rolling in dead fish! Also the idea of never allowing her dog’s feet to get dirty was just outrageous. First of all, dogs do not have feet, they have paws and secondly every dog I have ever met loves to get it’s paws dirty. There are some exceptions to this of course, because there are dogs that prefer to be cleaner than others, but they surely still enjoy feeling grass beneath their paws on a daily basis. This poor dog was forced to live a human’s existence in a dog’s body. I could see this woman’s love and devotion for her dog just oozing all over him as she held him on her lap, but the entire situation still troubled me. This poor dog was suffering because his owner was unaware of the real needs of her dog. I wanted to tell her that everything she was ever taught about dogs is obviously very, very wrong.
Although to an outsider it may look like my own dogs are spoiled rotten with two toy boxes heaping full of the most popular toys, the best food money can buy, daily hikes in the woods, and constant love and attention but the truth is that even though I love my dogs as if they were my children, I still acknowledge that they are dogs. My dogs are expected to follow our simple house rules; no jumping, no nipping, leave the dining room when the humans are eating, and welcome guests in a calm manner. Every dog owner should sit down with a pen and paper and write out their own house rules for their dogs, then make them follow these rules. It is not cruel or mean to ask your dog to follow rules. Anyone who has kids knows that without rules their children would be out of control. Plus a well mannered dog is much more fun to live with than a badly behaved one, regardless of how much you love them.
You don’t have to dominate your dog or be cruel to them to gain authority over them but you do need your dog to see you as the alpha dog before they will follow any of your “silly rules”. There are simple ways of showing your leadership in the household, many of which take very little effort on your part. Always eat your meals before your dog does and then feed them afterwards. It is in your dog’s primal nature to allow the alpha dog to eat first, so if you are feeding them before yourself you are unknowingly teaching your dog that they are in charge of the household. When leaving your house for a walk it is essential that your dog walk slightly behind you so that you always depart through the door first. Once on your walk you should teach your dog to walk by your left side, called heeling, so that they are again slightly behind you. Remember that the alpha dog leads the pack so if you are not leading your dog, then he will lead you.
There is nothing wrong with loving your dog and treating him like a member of the family, but remember that every family member needs to follow the house rules. If you truly love your dog you will care for them based on their needs as a dog and not ask them to be something that they are not. If you want to learn more about dog training and care, read some of my other canine articles.