Letter From The Dog
From The Dog...
Let me start off by saying that I love you. I really do. You feed and take care of me, play and take me for walks and then at the end of the day, you let me sleep in your bed - or at least in a lovely bed somewhere in your home. You’re kind and keep me safe, and for that I will always be grateful. But there are some things I want you to know, and although you don’t do all of these things, many humans do and I think it’s time we talk about it in general. And I’m speaking for most dogs when I write this.
Since when does “just a minute” only apply to humans? We dogs say it too, except when we do, you humans get angry. You let us off the rope thing to go run around and play, and then you ask us to come back at the most inconvenient of times - just when we are having the best fun playing with other dogs or chasing small fluffies. When we don’t respond, you get mad and tell us how bad we are, but apparently you don’t understand that when we hear our name, look back at you and then continue with our game, we’re also saying “just a minute”. By the way… how long is a minute?
You humans have really high expectations of us dogs that you don’t follow yourselves! You expect us to say hello and be nice to everyone. Really, EVERYONE – even if they are humans or other animals we don’t know. We walk along the street and you keep telling us to go, “say hello” and that’s fine sometimes. But at other times I don’t want to say hello to that person or dog that is making faces at me. Then when I tell them to go away by showing them my mad face, you get annoyed and embarrassed and tell me off for being unfriendly. You don’t say hello to everyone you pass on the street and I know you cross the road sometimes when there is someone that makes you uncomfortable, so please don’t expect me to be friendly to everyone I meet either.
I like food – I really do. Yes, I know there are some dogs that are weirdly not as food obsessed as most of us dogs are, but most of us love food. We think about it aaaaaallllllll the time! So we eat this thing called kibble – which is fine and sometimes tasty, but we like the really good stuff - and that means the food you eat. Yes, I understand that you can’t feed us from the table (though I love that and FYI sometimes dad does that when your back is turned) but you can, from time to time, add some of your food into our bowls or, better still, put it into toys that we can then chew on to get it out. It’s fun and great for something you call “mental stimulation” and it tires us out and makes us feel really good. Please don’t listen to the people that say you should never feed your dog “human food.” It’s all human food, except prepared in different ways, and a bit of your good and safe stuff is much appreciated, except for avocados, raisins, onions and chocolate, which are not good. Just read what those people in white coats that stick us with sharp things have written.
And by the way, don’t listen to those people that say food is bribery! It’s not. It does all kind of fabulous things in our brains that makes us feel sooooo good and helps us learn really easily. Toys do that for dogs that love toys too, so both are really powerful. Yes, we do love you and we will do things because we love and ‘respect’ you. (We have no idea what that word ‘respect’ means, but apparently you need dogs to be respectful, so we’ll try and be it) but we love rewards and we’ll work really hard for them.
And here’s another more sensitive matter that might upset you, but do you have to hug us all the time? I mean sometimes I like it when you hug me but when that child comes over to hug me, it’s awful. I give all the right back off signals: turning my head away, averting my eyes, leaning my body away, but they don’t stop. Hugging means different things in dog language. We only put our front legs around something when we are about to fight or do other stuff, and I’m sure if people knew that, they would stop hugging us really quickly, particularly when they don’t know us.
When you take us to dog parks – please keep an eye on us because it’s really awkward when you’re talking to your friends and we’re trying really hard to stop that one dog from bullying us. We’re running around trying to get away and when you do look, you think we’re having fun. Most of the time we are having fun, but if you keep an eye on us more regularly, you will be able to tell the difference.
And last, but by no means least, WE DO NOT WANT TO DOMINATE YOU! There are some humans that label everything we do as “dominant” and it’s getting ridiculous. If we walk ahead of you on the leash, we’re told we want to be pack leader. If we go out of the door ahead of you, we’re told we want to be ‘top dog’. We don’t at all! We walk ahead of you because we have four legs and you have two and our pace is naturally faster! You are soooooo slow. We’re excited to be outside and we pull to get to where we want to go and that’s it. There is no preconceived plan to dominate you. If we jump up, sleep on the sofa or the bed, it’s ok too. We just want to be comfortable, to be close to you, to be safe and secure.
We don’t want to achieve higher rank over you even when we misbehave, but the trouble is when we do controlling behavior like show our teeth when you come close to our food bowl or take a toy away, it’s not because we want to be of higher rank, it’s because we haven’t been taught what to do in that situation and so do what we dogs do, which is not always acceptable to humans. So take the time to teach us what to do and stop prodding us with your fingers, making silly sissing noises (hands that tell us off and then stroke us can be very confusing – we know it’s your hand and not a snake or a ‘mother dog’ telling us off, so let’s put that silly notion to bed right now), but if you use your hand to tell us off a lot, don’t blame us if we try to bite it at a time when you are only wanting to stroke us.
And what’s with the kicking us with your feet? It’s not nudging, it’s kicking and we don’t like it. It makes us lose trust in you, makes us insecure and then we sometimes have to use our teeth on you, which we don’t want to do. You then blame us for being more dominant and get even more physical with us and the whole thing leads down a bad path, so just stop, ok? There are other ways to tell us no.
Oh yeah – collars are ok, harnesses are better, but lay off the prong collars and shock collars. We dogs don’t swear but xxxx. Listen to yourselves when you say “oh it doesn’t hurt when used properly.” Who are you trying to kid? You’re not the one wearing it! It works because it IS painful and uncomfortable. If you just took the time to teach us how to walk on a leash in a good way, to teach us what to do in different situations so we didn’t make the wrong choices, you would never use those horrible devices.
I know changing your behavior might be difficult for you, but you can do it, just as you expect us to do it sometimes. Don’t get defensive, just listen. And guess what, being kind to us makes us listen and love you more! Makes us respond to you quickly, so when you call us, we don’t say, “just a minute.” We run back to you immediately, because being with you is the best thing ever. Being with you is fun and safe and lovely.
One last thing. I’m a large dog with an extensive ancestry. You call me a mix, or mixed breed. You might expect this to be written by a Collie, a German shepherd or a Jack Russell Terrier (they are crazy), but I’m none of those (unless you do a DNA test and find out). I'm just a large dog with a lot of energy and a whole lot of needs. I’m telling you that kindness works on all dogs, from Chihuahuas (why do they always tremble?) to Great Danes. It doesn’t matter what breed we are or breed blend, big or small, working or house dog, we do better if we are all treated with kindness. We will love you all our days, because our time with you on this earth is short, and we want to make the most of it with the people and animals we love.
Thanks for listening,
What do the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Long Lost Family have to do with dogs? BAFTA winning radio and TV presenter, Nicky...
Obedience training has long been the accepted path to teaching dogs’ manners, but the concept of obedience might be doing dogs a...
What is Free Work and how do dogs benefit? Dog behaviour expert Sarah Fisher joins Holly and Victoria to discuss how Free Work is...
Articles from Victoria Stilwell
- 2021 Dog Behavior Conference Announced
- Why I’m Not a Purely Positive Dog Trainer
- Becoming a Dog Trainer
- Social Bullying
- Does Your Dog Respect You?