Dogs are amazing creatures which bring so much to our lives. The problem is their natural desire to give isn't always reciprocated. Though they meld well into so many situations and perform a myriad of functions that benefit us, we have to remember that they have needs as well.
A dog shouldn't be a status symbol. If you buy a Bulldog because of their “cool” factor, be prepared to have additional sums for its health care needs. Veterinarians don’t have patience for those who buy a designer puppy for $2000 and then lose their head over the cost of vaccinations, fecal testing, deworming, flea and heartworm preventatives and so on. Additionally, if you buy a German Shepherd (from Germany), who has “unbelievable working lines” – don’t use it as lawn art! Your dog’s a thinking, breathing, emotional being that needs the ability to have training, affection, play, and an outlet for its breed-specific needs. It’s not there to decorate your backyard like a toy you can put on a shelf when you’re bored.
A dog shouldn't be a fashion accessory. Those who buy little dogs as a constant companion in their carry bag have delegated that pet to being a mere observer in the owner’s world. The dog has legs for a reason, so let the little one explore, become more confident and get exercise. Some of these dogs become fearful and anxious because they haven’t had the opportunity for independent exploration. Imagine if you were sequestered to a wheelchair, but you were perfectly capable of walking! It doesn’t stop there though. Some dogs live as a dress up dolls, without consideration of whether the activity makes the dog happy or at least comfortable. If your dog requires its own closet to house doggy couture, and you don’t have a Chinese Crested or weather requiring additional warmth, you may have a problem.
Lastly, your dog is shouldn't be an extension of yourself. This is a tough one. If your dog goes over to a friend and mounts their leg with great verve, I know it’s hard not to be totally embarrassed into 90 shades of crimson. Apologize to the person and divert your dog, but don’t punish him. Punishing your dog due to your discomfort may seem natural, but often reinforces the situation, or worse, pushes the pet into becoming defensively aggressive. As humans, we have a knee jerk response when confronted with situations that might imply we’re not good leaders. Here’s a scenario: while standing in a checkout line your kid points to the person next to you saying “She’s got a HUGE nose!” Your reaction is to scold your kid because he made you look like a terrible parent who teaches their child proboscis shaming! No. It’s a child; they’ll learn people come in all shapes and sizes, but can’t be expected to have an advanced adult social filter at such a young age (and the lady really did have a big honker). With dogs, they do what comes naturally as well. We need to listen to them to determine why they’re reacting, and then divert their attention to something that they CAN do instead. Disobedience is one area where dogs are judged harshly. Reactive dogs are often punished by their owners out of exasperation spurred on by public pressure (real or imagined) that decides they haven’t done enough to curb that dog’s behavior. Dogs are not automatons that are capable of turning off their own perceptions, fears, and concerns just because the display would be “inconvenient” for the company at large. Be a protector—remove your dog from the situation.
Dogs are a wonderful species, whose presence in our lives rewards us by enriching our own. We need to remember they are whole and separate from ourselves, and give them our time and understanding so they can have the opportunities to fully explore their true natures. Ownership is a dance and if you don't pay attention to your partner, all you'll find is that someone's got sore toes.