7 Ethical Responsibilities of Dog Guardians
Dog guardians have an important job. We have agreed and even chosen to be responsible for the wellness of another living being for the rest of their life, part of the job is letting them be a dog. Here are some other important bits of our chosen job description.
Respect the Agreement
Guardianship is an agreement with our dogs. It’s saying to them that we are here on this Earth together until the first of us leaves it. It’s accepting that many of them wouldn’t survive given the freedom of their wild cousins yet knowing that freedom is still so very important to them and facilitating it as much as we possibly can. Excellent dog guardianship means we give them the freedom to be themselves, agency over their lives and bodies, freedom to practice natural behaviour, eat natural foods and be respected as the individual they are.
Curb Our Expectations
Approaches such as expecting a dog to “know what he has done” or not pull on the lead because he should automatically understand the word “heel” are unfair expectations. This type of treatment of a dog is actually treating them like a person who understands human language perfectly well, when they don’t – because they are not people. They don’t automatically know what human words mean and they don’t – as far as we know – get involved in the complexities of doing things just to be blamed for them.
Respect Their Emotions
The idea that dogs are somehow less capable emotionally though, because they are not people is misled. Animals have complex emotions and if we need to use our experience of our own emotions, to better understand our dog then we should.
Let Them Roll
Everyone’s favourite dog is covered in some sort of poo at the end of a walk, right. No, not right, not at all but it is fair to let them roll once in a while. My tiny Yorkie never bothers to roll but occasionally something is far too good to miss, and she perfumes herself up wonderfully. She particularly likes dead fish and recently turned herself into a cowpat. We so often hear people asking trainers how they can stop their dog rolling in poo – and yes it’s inconvenient, but it’s a natural behaviour and it’s important to them.
Let Them Sniff
So many people pull their dogs along on walks, not allowing a nose based exploration of their environment, sniffing is our dogs' favourite thing and they need it for good physical, emotional and mental health. So let the dog sniff and be a good, fair guardian.
Choose A Great Vet
Choosing a good vet is about more than making us feel good, it's about watching how they are with our dogs. Over the last couple of decades, we have learned that stress and fear are really bad for our health and for the health of our beloved dogs. Excellent veterinary surgeries know this and do all they can to alleviate the stress and fear of their patients. They do this by considering consent and choice for dogs as much as possible. It can be so hard choosing the right vet but look for the good signs and the warning bells and often your instinct will tell you if you’re in the right place.
Learn (& Teach) How They Learn
Everyone who has a dog in their home should learn at least some practical canine coaching, it’s an integral part of good guardianship. Not only does coaching give our dogs the chance to learn new things and big boosts in their self-esteem when they do – it also helps them in situations they might find uncomfortable in the future.We can't just wait for them to make unhelpful choices, we must teach them the helpful ones instead - or how are they going to know, they are after all dogs living with a pretty unreasonable alien species.