Sunday, July 31, 2011

Your Dog is a Reflection on You

Whether we admit it or not, our dogs are a reflection on us.

When I meet an uncontrollable dog, I immediately judge its owner. It's the same reaction I have when I see a bratty kid. I don't think, "what a bratty kid." I think, "what an asshole of a parent."

It's even more pronounced with dogs, since they're much more easily trained than children and have a larger desire to please their owner. If a dog is "bad," that often means their owner is either ignorant or lazy. And while certain breeds have certain tendencies, you can't blame your dog's breed - the only breed of dog that can not be fully domesticated is a freaking wolf.

Am I right to have these judgements? Usually. Sometimes I don't know the whole story. The Vick dogs have been rehabilitated, but I bet in the beginning, they were difficult. Someone walking a dog that they just saved from a terrible life is different than walking a dog that they raised from birth to be an asshole.

Most shelter dogs are like Michael Oher in the first half of the Blind Side. Good instincts and good heart, but no knowledge of how to fit in to every day life. I feel like the first day we brought Bea home, she looked at her dog bed and said, "It's nice, I never had one before."

It's because of judgement that I am super conscious of Bea's behavior. When I'm with Bea in the elevator, I'm always careful to monitor her. I try to prevent her from sniffing strangers legs, hitting anyone with her wagging tail, or bearing teeth at another dog. While it's pretty normal behavior, it's the same reason I don't want other people I'm with to be obnoxious on the subway. I get too embarrassed.

And before you think I'm overreacting, this is the same reason that people teach their dogs tricks. While training is good mental exercise, most people saying "look what my dog can do" are really saying, "look what I taught my dog to do."

So next time your dog gets out of hand in public, remember, that's YOU getting out of hand.

"Sit! Good human."


  1. With dogs and kids there are some relatable issues. Are people ignoring the behaviors and watching them get worse or are they working on making progress? Do they take them places they are not ready to handle the challenges or do they respect the challenges the child/animal is ready to handle?

    Katy is extremely shy with people. We are working on improving her social skills and have limited her outings to situations we think will be a good chance for her to practice and a good chance for us to work on her skills. Her issues have been much different from Bailey's although they are both rescues. We have had to learn new skills.

    I respect how far she has come, but people often compare her with Bailey's excellent skills. DH and I often remind each other about where she is, where she started and the current goals we are trying to meet. We had a discussion yesterday about something we never think about with Bailey, but that we are working on training with Katy.

    So I tend to wonder if people are considering the best interests of the child/dog in a situation where the behavior is out of hand. Do they move to correct the situation or just ignore the bad behavior?

  2. I used to feel this same way.. but since I started working in rescue, my views have drastically changed. Instead of assuming that the dog in front of me is an asshole because their owner is an asshole, I take into consideration that this current owner may have had absolutely nothing to do with the way this dog is.