Monday, November 30, 2009

I must not love my dogs.....

There's this underlying feeling, belief maybe, that I notice among many dog owners. It has really come to light these last couple of months. Now it's time to address it. I must not love my dogs......

How can I love them? My dogs aren't what people would define as spoiled. Let me tell you why I don't love them:
-I don't allow them on the couch (not even the tiny Miss Heidi)
-I don't allow them in my bed
-I don't allow them to lick me (especially in the face)
-I don't allow them to jump on me
-I don't give them tons of treats (maybe one or two if they're lucky and of course lots when we're training)
-I don't pet them and love on them all day
-They're never allowed to pull me on the leash and most of the time I want them beside or behind me

Here's what they do have to do:
-Wait at doors, no darting through without permission, no going out in front of me
-Wait in the living room while I fix their dinner
-Stay out of the kitchen while I'm cooking and/or eating
-Stop licking/playing/making toys squeak when I'm trying to watch a movie

So it's official....I must not love my dogs. You see in this society we define love in the ways humans define love and we do this no matter the species. We take pride in how spoiled our pets are. I have numerous customers come in and say, "My baby is so spoiled, I've never left her at a kennel. You better take care of my baby." And then they plop up a bag of crappy food and tell us to feed it to their dog and when another dog walks in their dog growls and misbehaves...but, hey after's their baby.

If human parents were to say to you, "I spoil my kids. They don't have any rules in the house. I let them do whatever they want. No, they don't have to go to school and I really don't mind when they pee on the rugs. I let them eat oreos all day because it's their favorite. " We would immediately label them as bad parents. Why? Because everyone knows that children shouldn't be raised that way. But why do we have such a hard time using that same common sense with our dogs?

The reason I believe is that humans use pets to fill up the emotional needs that humans so desire. They want another species that will forever be their baby and love them so much for it. But here's what's missing....what's in it for the dog? Owning a dog is a two way street. Your dog provides you with unconditional love and it is your responsibility to give back to your dog what he/she really needs. That is for you to understand that she is a dog. That's right a dog. And a dog's needs are much different than a humans. Dogs need to have rules, dogs need to have structure, they need to have a clear leader in their lives. If they don't then they can't be as well-balanced as they were meant to be.

Yes, yes, you could be one of the lucky ones that found yourself a calm submissive dog and without so much a tiny bit of effort on your part your dog is well-balanced. But for most of the dogs it's not like that. So let's really take a look at it. Let's really take a look at what can happen when dogs' true needs aren't fulfilled and then take a look at your dog and see what fits.

First: Stop right now and make a list of rules your dog has. Don't make any new ones up and don't list rules that you wish your dog did, but real actual rules that are enforced 100% of the time.

Second: Is your dog well-balanced. You may think your dog is. Below are some behaviors that will let you know your dog is not well-balanced.
-Growl at other dogs when on a walk
-You would be afraid to take your dog to a dog park because they would either be too aggressive or they would freak out due to fear
-Barks non-stop at any small noises
-If they are doing a behavior you do not like you are unable to stop it (like non-stop barking)
-Isn't housetrained
-Is anxious, high-strung, paces, whines, digs, etc. when left alone
-Doesn't have a healthy appetite (you have to "convince" her to eat)
-licks obsessively (really any obsessive behavior)
-Can't learn to respect boundaries (escapes from crates, scratches doors, etc.)
-A prey drive so high you cannot get the dog out of the fixated state once she has spotted "prey"
-growls/bites at humans
-would take off running away from you given the slightest opportunity

These are just a few examples but there are hundreds more. The reason I am doing this is to say ultimately...I don't care if you "spoil" your dogs. But if that "spoiling" gets in the way of them being healthy well-balanced dogs then I do have a problem with it. You know I was joking when I said I didn't love my dogs. I mean really, how many of you can say you built a business around being able to bring your dogs to work? But how does that love rank with others? To me I would have to say, "I love my dogs more." Why? Because I don't give them what I want to give them; I give them what they need. And because of that my dogs are happy, healthy, at a good weight and most importantly well-balanced.

What this gets me in return is an amazing group of dogs. Who else do you know that can take 5 dogs off leash and trust them? It's because I provide such a structured life for my dogs that they are able to reach their full potential. Their real potential. Not just well-behaved for me, but that they can be happy in their own skin. Dogs doing the above aren't happy; aren't truly happy.

Now that I've laid the foundation with them not only do I reap the benefits but they do too. They get to travel with me, go to work with me, go walking with me, go to family's houses, get to hang out off-leash while I work in the yard, they get to eat downtown with me when the weather's nice, they get so much more because of the work I've done...we've done really; as a pack together.

I don't write this to say, "I'm a better pet owner, ha-ha." I write this so that you can take a second to re-evaluate the relationship you have with your dog. Perhaps your dog isn't as well-balanced as you know she could be; perhaps you realized you don't even have one rule in your house. Perhaps you realized you are one of the lucky ones with the ultimate well-balanced dog with no effort. But either way, I hope it gives you pause and most importantly makes you redefine what "spoiling" your dog really means.

I briefly mentioned above about the customer that says their dog is their baby and then throws the crappy bag of dog food on the counter for us to use. This is one of the biggest mistakes owners that "spoil" their dogs do; horrible diet. It's not good to throw in horrible wet food just to make them eat it or buy the bag that has the prettiest label. You HAVE to learn how to pick the right food. Please don't invest all your love into your pet and then feed them garbage. I am so happy to help you with this, just ask. Also, having an obese pet is just as neglectful as having a pet that has been starved. It does significant damage to your pet. When I see a pet that is so fat, I literally hold back tears. You might as well be beating your dog in front of me. Please, if you take nothing else out of this take a look at your dog's weight and take a look at your dog's food. They'll thank you for it. And then feel free to smack me as well if you see me eating a doughnut.

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