Picture of the head of a terrier dog to illustrate don't feel sorry for dogs

Don’t feel sorry for dogs

Do you want to know what makes us absolutely crazy? It’s when people feel sorry for their dogs. It stifles the dog’s personality and puts boundaries around not only their bond, but their capabilities, too.

Unfortunately there are lots of dogs who come from less-than-ideal circumstances. We have absolutely no sympathy or understanding of anyone who would abuse or neglect any animal. But once those animals are free of the situation, once they’re in secure circumstances, there’s no reason to pity them.

Actually, what we hear most often from dog owners is how their dogs are spoiled. After adoption, these dogs have nothing to worry about. They have shelter, food, exercise, affection, and the best treats! They’re not pitiful, they’re lucky dogs.

Case in point

Picture of the head of a terrier dog to illustrate don't feel sorry for dogs

A couple of years ago a woman came to our dog training club classes with a little terrier she adopted. This little dog was reactive, noisy, and had no clue how to act in public. The relationship between dog and person wasn’t very joyful. Both dog and owner were stressed most of the time. Neither had high expectations of the other.

All that’s changed. Both person and dog are happier because the owner learned to set high standards for her dog and taught her how to live up to them. They are now (hopefully) getting ready to compete in Rally Obedience. They work as a team, knowing that their partner is smart, reliable, and knows what she’s doing. When you expect more from your dog, you give that dog the opportunity to shine.

Don’t feel sorry

There’s another dog in our beginner class that was born blind. The people knew he was blind when they got him as a puppy. We haven’t asked, but it’s pretty apparent they acquired him because they felt sorry for them and were acting charitably.

They have another dog in the same class. And the blind dog’s bond is to the other dog, not the people. The people think it’s a good thing that their dog has a seeing eye dog. Sort of. You see, the sighted dog is reactive – including to the blind dog when he bumps into her. Which he does. A lot.

Willing to change

If the people are willing to put in the effort, their blind dog can be a full member of the household who knows stuff and is a good companion. So far, despite our advice, we haven’t seen any effort to do that. It could be something as simple as teaching the dog to look when he hears a particular sound. That’s an easy one. Or putting a bell on their shoe laces to let him know where they are. 

We asked, but not even they are sure why they’re in class with this dog. They could be building his confidence, expecting him to succeed, building their relationship with him. 

We’re hoping even a glimmer of change will prove to them that their disabled dog can do stuff. Can be their dog, instead of their dog’s dog. 

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