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Wellness

Why You Should Avoid A Dog-owner Relationship With Their Pet

Even if you don’t like it, dog owners are often in denial about their pet’s health problems. If you don’t take them seriously and take good care of their pets, they will eventually turn on you.

I grew up in a household where dogs are a regular companion, part of the family, and I know that when they are ill, some pet owners give dogs little time to heal. I knew this as a child, and I know this about adults, too. For all of the love in our lives — family, friends, pets — that love could be taken away from us when we’re upset. It is a cruel, sad, and difficult reality that many of us are confronted with. And the most powerful, painful lesson our pets teach us is that our relationships with other humans, animals, and our environment need to change.

As a child, I never paid much attention to the ways my human parents interacted with their dog, and what I observed in my own home is reflected in that of many children. The relationship with my dog was an extension of my relationship with them. We spent time together, shared many meals, and even had a dog-training class together in college.

That was then. My relationship with my dog has changed significantly over the years. The biggest changes were my decision to get a cat, my growing awareness of issues I had with his food, the time he required on my time off of work, and his insistence that he will only live if he’s on a leash. This last one has been the hardest on me. I understand that dogs want to be independent. That’s their instinct, and it has been reinforced by us, which I love and respect, as well as my husband, who’s very understanding. But we live in a society that places excessive value on the freedom that they receive from us, whether that’s riding your lap or at your feet. I don’t want to be part of that type of lifestyle. I want to give my dog that freedom — to go outside and play, but also with a leash in his mouth, under control.  

Now when I am with my dog, I have to be responsible and sensitive enough not to push him, and sensitive enough to not allow him to think I’m the reason he is under control.   I want to provide an environment in which he feels safe and secure, and that means not exposing him to my displeasure.  I do try to be aware of what is going on when he is off-leash, but I am not there if he is behaving in a potentially harmful manner, e.g., a dog that barks or barks too long, barks out in an aggressive manner, walks without the leash or restraint system, or is otherwise behaving in a way that could cause damage to my property.  

I recognize that we don’t have to have a dog-owner relationship, but we need to have one that does not have the potential for an unpleasant outcome. And that means not letting your relationship with your dog become this kind of adversarial, “us versus them” situation.

The best way to make this work for you is to start to educate yourself. If you’re not able to make time for socialization, you’ll need to figure out how to spend your time when you have it. If you have a job outside the home, you’ll need to learn how to do some of those things at work, and your relationships with others will have to adapt to what needs to be done. The most important thing is that you want to keep your relationships with other humans and animals positive, meaningful, and caring. Do you know any dog owners who have a good relationship with their pets? What are some things they do? What do you think other people might do?

We need to take our relationship with our pets and other humans seriously; our dogs need to be treated well, and our human friends need to be treated with respect.