It’s hard to find a common ground these days among dog owners. Whether you are an R+ trainer, a canine officer, a Furmom, a rescue volunteer, a Bully breed advocate, etc., where do we come together anymore? Can we just start at least at the fact that you consider yourself a dog person? That definition meaning you like dogs and likely the best part of your day is coming home and hanging out with your dog? That you love your dog?
I’ve been around the dog world for over 30 years. And Scott has known a culture of dogs for another 20 years before that. The answer when he was young used to be that if the dog growled at the kid, he got thrown outside for the night. When I was growing up, everybody went to obedience class with a choke chain and leash and the AKC CD exercises were the entire class. I just found a test sheet that reminded me of this from an old memory box the other day. How have things changed SO DRASTICALLY in the past decade alone? We can’t blame Trump for this one!
Where did the trend start? Inbred Doodles? Puppy mills? Purely positive? Medication? The billion dollar pet industry? I don’t think there’s necessarily one culprit nor does it really matter how we ended up where we did, but where do we go from here? In the dog world, we are SO QUICK to cut each other down. Why? Why are we NEVER on the same team anymore? We judge… genetics, owners, trainers, behaviorists, competitors, tools, protocols. And yet most of those casting judgement have very little control of their own dogs in a public setting.
When it comes to referring to positive trainers, people will often use the phrase, “They are drinking the kool-aid.” What about the owners who aren’t even training at all- who literally have the kool-aid pack and pitcher of water on the counter and don’t even ever mix the two together much less drink it? There’s a big difference between a dog owner whose dog pulls her down the street and a dog owner who pushes her dog in a stroller. And there’s an even bigger difference between the first two groups and the dogs that walk nicely down the street not bothering others trained in either camp. But that dog is few and far between these days.
Kendall Jenner gets berated for having a pinch collar on her dog and yet there are other dogs attacking humans everyday on the street. Strangers. Runners. Dogs that were muzzled but still out of control and broke free. If you aren’t training pet dogs in this day and age on a regular basis, you have zero business commenting on aggression issues or anxiety issues. Dogs, like kids, need structure. Structure comes from quiet time, from handling, from criteria, and from limiting movement for starters. Without structure, dogs unravel.
We ALL need to do better. To respect each other more. I’m frankly embarrassed sometimes by how volatile and ugly we can get as so called dog people. Again, aren’t we on the same team… the team that likes dogs and being around dogs- at least our own dogs? How can we respectfully bring light to some of these topics? How can we educate? Not just bitch, point fingers, and engage in name calling on Facebook threads like a bunch of kids on the playground.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar acceptance speech really resonated with a lot of people. He said, “And I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love, the love of [dogs] and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life... And I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other.”
Everyone is an expert and no one wants guidance. Why? We blame vets for medicating everything that walks in the door. Did the owner want to train? Why would a breeder sell a puppy to an owner who is unwilling to train that dog? Did the owner potentially try training and it made zero difference? Should that dog not have left rescue in the first place? Why are breeders and rescues mandating how dogs should be handled in their new homes? What other option besides medication do vets have nowadays? Hell, almost 20% of humans are on some sort of mood altering drug!
Let’s start with some easy ones. We want healthy dogs in society. That’s on the breeders. We want safe dogs adopted into homes. That’s on the rescues. We want dogs to be more well behaved in society. That’s on the trainers. We want to better educate dog owners. That’s on the influencers. We all need to step up our game. We have to find a common ground. That common ground should be our love of dogs. And our love of dogs should include keeping them safe and having control over them at least to some extent.
I’m not trying to make this a why can’t we be friends post, but maybe think twice before going on the attack next time. How are we contributing to the greater good by automatically segmenting ourselves? Labeling others? Why does it matter how someone else trains their dog? Why do we seem to care more about dogs than we do about people? Maybe don’t let your sarcastic undertone be your first response next time you’re triggered. Maybe focus on action rather than words. Try to contribute in some way. We certainly can discuss some of these issues more productively. I’m afraid to see what dog ownership will look like in another decade at the rate we’re going. It’s changing so drastically so quickly. And not for the better.