Disposable Dogs? We Need to be Accountable for Our Behaviour.
When did our faithful canine friends become disposable?
Why do we have this epidemic of discarded dogs? Pre-loved canines who have done nothing but be dogs. And even more concerning, why has this trend become even more prevalent in the 21st century? Is it possible that we actually forgotten the intrinsic value of the precious dog/human relationship?
I’ve worked in – and for – numerous Rescues for many, many years and it is always heartbreaking when you witness the extraordinary amount of young and old, big and small, pedigree and non-pedigree dogs handed over to the local dog pounds, rescues and shelters. The reasons? There’s a very long laundry list of reasons – and excuses – but most of them stem from the single fact that the family dog was an idea not well thought-out.
It all starts one day when someone impulsively suggests, ‘Let’s get a dog!’ Perhaps it’s one partner to another, or one friend to another friend or even a child to their parent and guess what? They do. In a mere blink of an eye, they’ve booted up the old laptop, searched the free ads (and adorable pictures) of dogs needing new homes and within a day or two, they have a new member of the family to love. Just as easy as that!
That’s why I think rescues are struggling at the moment, full to the brim with lovely animals that are still there months later. You see, rescues make you re-examine that impulsive statement (Let’s get a dog!) and Make You Think it Through Step-by-Step. Where will the dog sleep? What will he eat? Can you afford the proper kind of food for the breed of dog you want? Do you really have time for a dog especially when it comes to training and daily exercise? Does the breed of dog you think you want really fit into your family’s lifestyle? What if the dog becomes ill? Can you afford medical treatment? And what do you do with that K9 family member when you go away on holiday?
Yes, the rescues make you think through this impulse before acting. So why would someone who is more interested in satisfying the “instant gratification” of owning the latest ‘trend’ of the most-popular-dog-breed, go through all the application forms, personal home checks and make a written commitment of being accountable and responsible for this animal, when they can just phone up a complete stranger from an online ad and buy that “instant gratification” from an unscrupulous puppy breeder who only cares about making a profit.
They won’t, because it’s easier not to. Too easy.
It has become all too easy for many people to go down this unscrupulous-puppy-breeder-road and money is certainly not the reason! Rescues and shelters have their dogs vetted, vaccinated and neutered and then ask for a mere pittance in comparison to the price some pedigree dogs are being sold for (and we can be talking hundreds into thousand pounds (or dollars) for some of these breeds). And some of these unscrupulous breeders never give a guarantee of health (because most of them can’t considering the conditions under which they breed), let alone anything else.
So what happens once that cute, little doggy – who just makes your heart melt – comes home?
Once that sweet-faced puppy comes home, too many people suddenly find themselves in complete and utter shock over how much work that cute little Daisy, Inca or Jimbo really are! The constant mess, the expense of all that food they eat .. every day! And the biting and scratching of those (remember, “cute”) little puppy nails and teeth; on you, your new furniture and of course, your favorite pair of leather shoes! Wasn’t this supposed to be “Easy?”
The problem with “wannabe’s” is that they see someone with a beautiful, well-mannered and affectionate dog and they want one too … now! What these same people don’t see (or understand) is that anyone who is good at something will make it look easy; and very responsible dog owners have (out of sight of the wannabe) put a lot of time, knowledge, effort and hard work into creating (and maintaining) a solid relationship with their dog. This is what separates the “wannabe” from the reality of a good dog owner.
A Good Owner will seek Help
There is a huge difference between someone who wants to learn more about owning a dog because they love their dog and want to do the right thing and someone who just can’t be bothered after the instant gratification part has been satisfied (whom I call the “Trophy Owner”). Unfortunately, there are fast becoming a lot of Trophy Owners in this world and it is at the detriment of our most beloved pets.
Thankfully, what warms my heart are the Honest, Sensible and Rational people of this world who don’t want to contribute to the growing epidemic of disposable dogs. These good owners proactively seek help in establishing the proper relationship with their family pet and addressing issues before they get out of control. They learn about – and then incorporate – the necessary boundaries, discipline and leadership required by their dog to be a fulfilled member of the family. It’s these kind of people who will be good dog owners all of their lives; and with every dog that comes into their home, there will be love, kindness and a better understanding of all the facets of good dog ownership. And because of this understanding and commitment, they will always enjoy a close relationship with their dog whether they are playing, going places together or just cuddling on the couch.
We need more responsible people like this to keep more dogs out of the rescues throughout the country. If we continue as we are, we are heading for a disaster that will affect the health and mental well-being of all our dogs in the very near future.
And truly, what does that say about our society?
Responsibility doesn’t end when you have had enough of the puddles on the floor, the chewing, the howling, the barking, the pulling, the digging, the jumping, the growling and the over-excitedness.
Actually, that’s exactly when your responsibility kicks into overdrive; because your dog is telling you that your behaviour has created their behaviour. These out-of-control behaviours are a symptom that something important is missing in your relationship.
All negative, destructive and excited behaviours can be changed into more appropriate and positive actions by teaching our dogs an alternative and better behaviour. That is the responsibility of every dog owner … just as it is for every parent with their children. We don’t expect children to come fully trained with only the behaviours we like. It’s the same with the dogs we bring into our homes. Teach them kindly and consistently, reward positively and reap the lifelong rewards of a truely wonderful human/canine partnership.
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