Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our role and relationship with dogs

I don't believe in dominance... I do believe in leadership and relationship one in which the needs of a dog as a dog are met first.

Today, I thought I would talk about my views on the human-dog relationship.

If dogs were allowed to roam free, and we had no fences, no leash laws... then there would in fact be no problems. Dog's would fend for themselves, they would roam, they would be socialized naturally and the relationship they would have with humans would be those of which are now historic or not commonly seen. Dog's would be scavengers, and humans in turn would benefit from their protection.

Since that is not the case, at least in our Western society, I think the concept that "dog's have become our children" is a good one. Let us take a look at that... if dog's are our children, that makes the human counterpart the parent.

To be mum or dad, is a pretty big role. That means, this dog's upbringing becomes your responsibility in every sense. As a parent, you have choices:

you can be involved or not involved
you can teach them right from the very beginning or let them figure it out on their own.... sometimes luck has it such that they can go by fine, most often not
you can lead them or allow their friends (at the dog park) to lead them
you can provide them with an enriched life, or you can damage them
you can give them the food that is best for them or you can give them hot dogs and candy instead (or fast food)
and I can go on and on.

More importantly, the relationship of a human and dog in this context is, the dog is the dependent, and human is the provider. Looking at the human as a parent to the doggy child is a great way to help understand our role in the lives of these animals.

They coexist with us, as though part of our family... they do become part of most families.
Even though an animal, and one with its own needs... but so are children.

One parent may be very strict, and raise their dogs in such a manner that the dog will not do anything without the consent of its mum / dad.... while another may have learned to demand its own way and mum / dad will follow... no different than children.

Every dog desires to have friends, but yet does not like to share its own toys... so does a child.

While awake the dog brings out the worst in us (sometimes) but when asleep we melt at the mere sight of a sleeping dog.... I loved the kids I worked with the same way... no different than a child.

We want them to sleep in their own beds at night, but yet while we are in deep sleep they find their way in between us.... so do children.

So if having a dog is so much like have a child, what is our role?

Our role is to be the best parents we can be. Parenting is a skill, and requires equal amounts of love, play, rules. Parenting requires us to play a game that can be understood by this child. It should be clear, it should be consistent, it should have boundaries and limitations, it should result in appropriate consequences, it should require quality time, it should require bonding, it should require separation, it should require good health, it should consist of healthy fear, patience, time, trust and respect.

It is not an act of kindness its an act of responsibility and accountability.

So, why is that many pet parents struggle to achieve this relationship wit their pets?

The problem lies when pet parents develop anthropomorphic tendencies in describing their pets reasoning for their behavior (most often regarding inappropriate, unacceptable behavior) or in anthropomorphizing how their pets feel and they accordingly reciprocate their actions based on this "false" interpretation.

Although in many ways, our relationship with dogs can be compared to that one of a parent raising a child.... I only make this similar comparison while referring to the need of providing: education, enrichment, exposure and socialization.

All parents have big dreams and wishes for their children. When their child is anything but what they imagined, it for some, becomes difficult to deal with. However, as a responsible parent, you understand your child, its strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly its needs. Every child differs, but probably not in a wide range of ways as dogs differ from one another.

As pet parents, we all wish for the perfect, most well behaved, friendly dog.... but as a responsible pet parent you learn from your dog, what he/she needs to get there, and you provide it with those means. You don't set it up for failure to practice bad behavior or in an environment that elicits emotions that result to undesirable behaviors.

In this sense it takes a great amount of knowledge and understanding on who your dog is, and what your dog needs... and as similar as the human-dog relationship is to the parent-child relationship, if not finely understood, it can cause damaging results.

Its tough to be a parent, it is not meant for all.... nor is a dog or a child!

Parent Responsibly.

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