For the Love of Our Dogs

Lot’s of people love dogs. Here are some interesting facts:1

  • There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States
  • Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog
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>Most owners (60 percent) own one dog

  • Twenty-eight percent of owners own two dogs
  • Twelve percent of owners own three or more dogs
  • On average, owners have almost two dogs (1.69 percent)
  • Twenty-one percent of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter
  • On average, dog owners spent $248 on veterinary visits (vaccine, well visits) annually.
  • That pet ownership is popular among US household is good news for the 6-8 million dogs and cats that pass through our shelters each year looking for permanent homes. And those of us who love dogs are happy that dogs are being welcomed more and more into our society. Dogs are wonderful companions. They give us unconditional love; they don’t care if they live in a tent or the Taj Mahal; they help our emotional state; they lower our blood pressure; they improve our social skills; they improve a child’s self esteem. The list goes on. There are huge known benefits to dog ownership.

    But owning a dog also requires a huge commitment of time, patience, and money. Taking a dog into a home should mean a lifetime commitment, and therefore should not be taken lightly. It isn’t fair to take a dog into a home, develop a bond (which the dog would never break), and then drop the dog off at a shelter because the owners can’t find the time, patience, or money for the dog. The dog can’t understand why it no longer has a warm bed and friendly people caring for it.

    I have met several people lately who want their dog to be well behaved but who are not willing to take the time to teach it how to behave. Dogs are, well they are dogs. And they do dog things, which to them are perfectly acceptable. But peeing in our house, for example, while acceptable to the dog, is not acceptable to the human occupants. Chewing our shoes, also acceptable to the dog, doesn’t sit well with the owner of the shoes. One woman I met told me that she doesn’t want her dog to eliminate in the house. When the housetraining procedure was explained to her, she said she didn’t have time to work on potty training for her dog. Yet she expects that it will not eliminate in her house AND she allows it to roam freely about the house. Somehow, ultimately it will be the poor little dog’s fault for not “getting” it. How very sad. Another owner has a new dog from a shelter that has some separation anxiety and is traumatized when left alone. In this particular case, it is not an impossible behavior to solve, but it will take some effort from the owner to help the dog. Yet, the owner “has no time for the dog”, but nevertheless wants it to be ok when left alone. Again, it will be the dog’s fault. How very sad.

    People tend to believe that dogs should automatically know how to behave like a human, yet how does that even make any sense? Suppose for a moment that you were suddenly transported to Planet Dog, where humans were kept as pets for the dogs. The dogs however, don’t take the time to teach you how to behave. So, when you naturally behave like a human, they punish you. They cannot understand your words, so they are unable to understand your behavior. You cannot understand their bark, so you do not know what they expect. This is how it is for our dogs. They do not know how to behave until we teach them. They do not understand human vocabulary until we teach them the meaning of our words. How unfair then to just expect them to be our definition of a “good dog”.

    Every once in a while, we get a “perfect” dog. But more often, we get a dog that needs to be taught basic manners, proper elimination, proper chew toy habit, proper greetings, etc. These things take time, patience, and money. If a person wants a companion dog to “hang out” with, that is great. But if that person expects the dog to understand all the house rules without effort on the part of the owner, that is unfair, uninformed, and just plan sad. It is this type of irresponsible human behavior that puts millions of dogs into shelters. Don’t let another dog become a statistic. Love your dog? Train your dog. Pass it on.

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    1 The Humane Society of the United States. U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html online casinos in canada

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