I have a beef with rescue organizations when they equate a good home for a dog just purely based on love. Yes, really. So, my rumination begs the question: How does our love translate in our daily life with our pets?
Let me explain my position above. Not long ago I had a client who told me that his fearful dog was going to get a lot of love. Implying that love alone would help the dog in dealing with the fear he had to most people and to almost all sorts of interactions with people – with the exception of the few folks the dog felt comfortable interacting with.
Weeks after having this conversation, my client decided that the behavior modification plan we had in place for his fearful dog was taking too long so he decided without any sort of a consultation to attach a shock collar on his smallish dog and shock the dog whenever the dog growled or barked at his clients. When I asked to discuss with him the use of shocks to “help” his dog get more comfortable around his clients who would come to see him at his home, he told me that he could not afford having his dog bite someone because he could not be open to a possible lawsuit.
So, is the scenario above real love for his dog? I don’t think so! Of course, no one wants their dog to bite someone. And of course, no one in their right mind would not take into consideration the possibility of being sued as a result of a bite. But the question still remains. How do we love our dogs?
When are we actually ignoring what is best for the dog and we instead focus on our needs and we make decisions out of fear, regardless of how this bears on the well-being of our dog.
The point that I want to make is that very often people (including most rescue organizations) focus on the fuzzy feelings WE feel as a result of being in a relationship with a dog. The fuzzy feelings we feel when OUR needs for companionship, fun etc. are met. Indeed, yes, this is love but not necessarily love for the dog.
The relationship one can have with a dog can very well be similar to a relationship we have with a very small child, where we must be able to anticipate their needs and act accordingly. Other times, the relationship with our dogs looks more like the relationship we might have with a spouse. Both adults with very specific needs and wants. Here we are entering compromise “city”. In order for this relationship to thrive, both partners need to take a close look at how they can acknowledge their partner’s needs, how to best understand them and reach a compromise that makes them both, at the very least, able to live with the decision. Of course, our dogs are not negotiating with us the same way our partners do. For one, dogs do not manipulate us! (LOL) Instead, they ask the best way the can for what they need and also for what they want.
In my view, “translate” is really an accurate word to use when it comes to love for our dogs, because while it might appear to us that we are loving our dogs, what we might be doing is concentrating on our needs. At times because we live in a complex world that puts incredible demands on our resources such as time, money, energy even in acquiring accurate knowledge about who dogs really are. Sometimes of course, we are not truly loving our dogs but ourselves when we fail to take into consideration how our decisions big and small surrounding our dogs in particular and our live-in situation generally affects them.