Dogs - The Ethics of Ownership
Dogs have been with us for many, many years. It seems based on the limited evidence we have that they joined us at least in part on purpose. Whether they were friends, workers, or both back then, dogs are linked to us like no other animal, not just now but historically too.
So how then did we get to the point of ownership of another species, forced breeding, strange genetic combinations that create already sick puppies. Selling them, telling them and blaming them for the normal dog behaviours that occur because they are squeezed into a world that’s not easy for them to live in?
There’s only really one answer to that question, we are human. We are generally pretty obsessed as a species with control and possessions. Humans are a mixed, messy bag and we have brought all other species, particularly the domesticated ones along for the ride.
Dogs are now our emotional sounding boards – maybe even our sponges. We often see parents putting on a brave face for children when something is wrong, not many people do that for dogs though. We also assume that things such as separation anxiety or simply wanting to interact with us are behaviour issues. We expect them to walk nicely on the lead without being taught to – then in some cases we wait for them to do it wrong and we punish them for it or get a stranger in to do it. We bring them home on a whim and hand them over to someone else as soon as things get a little challenging. We use them as gifts for children and touch them whenever we feel like it. Dogs are stuck with us, even in the best lives, they still have to shape themselves around us.
In so many cases we create the best possible life we can for them. We try to provide choices, we give them options for life enrichments, we work hard to give them freedom in their lives and agency over their bodies and that’s wonderful.
The thing that we have to remember though, and try to remind each other too, is that dogs are living individuals. They are our friends, and we have an important job being their guardians. They are not our things, it, or a possession.
It’s up to us as ethical and aware dog guardians to identify how we can meet their needs and how we can facilitate the environment that they are able to be themselves as much as possible. It’s up to us to learn their language and help them when they need it, to empower them and build their resilience in the world. Most of all though, it’s up to us to question everything we are told about dogs, and if we are given advice that isn’t kind, feels wrong or doesn’t respect the dog it’s aimed at – it’s up to us to reject it.