“Furbaby” … the word sends chills up my spine. While we love our four-legged companions dearly, we must never lose sight of the fact our canine companions are a species unto themselves. Many of the surrenders we get into rescue are there because the owners lovingly, yet mistakenly, anthropomorphize (attribute human form or personality to things not human) these cute little dogs, not realizing that the Apso is one of the most dominant dogs in a small package. Give them an inch and they will take a mile … you can bet on it!
Jan Warren, active in Dalmatians since 1988, was a guest columnist in the December AKC Gazette. She is an AKC judge and has served as an officer, committee chair, and show chair for several kennel clubs, including the Dalmatian Club of America. She has graciously given permission for reprint of her column submission …
Treat Me Like a Dog
At a recent show, I was dumbstruck by the sight of a girl walking a Chihuahua fully attired in a flowered sundress with matching bonnet. While many folks saw the embodiment of cute, I was appalled. In my opinion, this dog didn’t look cute — just plain foolish.
Unfortunately, this notion of turning our dogs into furry people appears to be growing out of control. We see them sporting the latest fashions, pushed in strollers, and slung in totes. Day care, therapists, and even pet psychics are available. Dogs are not people! Yes, we do have some traits in common. However, a trait or two does not a human make, and when we expect our dogs to act accordingly, we set them up for failure.
Dogs are thinking, emotional beings but not in the same ways we are. Their lives are governed by instincts with which we cannot reason. While we strive to provide them with the best of nutrition, they are still predators born to the chase. We should not be surprised when they go for a cat, squirrel, or even another little dog that crosses their path. We should not be offended when our intact male dogs makes eye contact and bristles at another boy. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have a poor temperament or are aggressive. They are males with the male need to defend their territory against a possible sexual interloper. We can train and socialize our dogs to the best of our abilities but, in the long run, genes will win out.
Yes, I believe in training and socialization. We cannot allow our dogs to mark their territories in our homes, bark incessantly, or run loose, terrorizing the neighborhood. However, training should be tempered with the understanding that in certain circumstances, nature will take precedence. Anyone who has had an intact male dog living with a female in season knows no amount of reasoning will calm his need to breed. You either live with the howling, slobbering, barking and panting — or temporarily relocate one of the parties. Telling him “next time” or “not this girl” will not appease him.
Dogs are unique in the animal world. No other creature has ever been designated “man’s best friend.” There’s something special in the makeup of a dog that has earned him this one-of-a-kind title. It is his joie de vivre, his unconditional love, his unswerving loyalty? Yes, yes, and yes. Dogs are all these things and more, because their joy, love and loyalty are not contaminated by human traits of bitterness, vindictiveness and betrayal. By attempting to remake them in our image, we are demeaning the very character of the dog.
Think of it this way: How exciting and fascinating is it to be able to develop such an intimate relationship with an entirely different species? Let’s celebrate those differences and try to look for the good, savor the moment, be content with what we have, and who we are. In this way, maybe we can both, as species, become a bit better than we would be without each other. ~~ J.W.