If our dogs could talk to us for just five minutes, what would they say? I think the answer might be as surprising as it is simple! Decades of misunderstanding might give way to a more open and positive relationship with our dogs if we could change some of our assumptions about our dogs.
It’s no secret that we love dogs. How much? Well, a study from 2001 report that there were over 400 million dogs in the world. It’s estimated that there are over 22 million dogs in Canada alone and well over 66 million in the United States. They come in different shapes and sizes, they come with different personalities, and they come with their own traits and abilities.
And yet, despite their incredible diversity, they all retain those special qualities that make them uniquely and essentially dogs. From the tiniest terrier to the largest Great Dane, a dog is still a dog. They have been with us for tens of thousands of years. You would think we would know more about dogs than any other animal on earth. Well, not exactly. It seems we have created as much myth around dogs as we have uncovered facts. Perhaps more.
The last few decades have seen tremendous interest in the science of dogs. There is now an impressive body of scientific knowledge that can tell us a great deal about our canine companions. But how much of it is really important to the average dog owner? After all, is it important to know how many scent receptors our particular breed has? To know they have an amazing sense of smell is enough for most of us.
But if you asked a dog, there are a few things they would want all of us to know. Just a few small but important things that could change the way we think about and interact with our dogs. If dogs could talk with us, what would they want us to know? I think they might say something like this…
I Want To Work With You
Listen, you are the center of my existence. I can’t eat, drink, or poop comfortably without your consent and assistance. You’re good enough to let me live with you, most of the time in a nice warm house or a safe enclosure outside. You are probably my main source of social time and companionship. And because of all the things I get out of this relationship, there’s something I want you to know – I want to work with you!
You humans have a saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” That’s really good advice and most of us know it’s not smart to upset the food-giver. I know it looks like we can get cranky or stubborn sometimes but did it ever occur to you that maybe we’re just confused? We don’t speak your language. And you’ll forgive me for saying so but you guys aren’t exactly consistent with your messages. Sometimes you ask me to sit and give me a reward and other times you make me sit because you are upset with me.
It’s in our best interest to figure out what you want and to cooperate with you. After all, you are picking the best of us to breed for the next generation. After all these years, you must have some pretty willing companions at this point. If it’s not working very well, have you considered that you might be just too hard to figure out?
The bottom line is that we want to work with you. Please do your best to show us what you want without frustrating or upsetting us. It just works better that way.
I Don’t Hold Grudges
I have to tell you in all honesty, we dogs don’t sit and stew over things like you humans do. There’s a lot going on in our worlds and it comes at us pretty fast. We don’t really have the time or the brain power to remember and worry over what you did last week to upset us. We move on to the next thing pretty quickly.
Oh, sure, we remember the big things. We know the scary place with the big dog that barks so we can avoid it. We know that you get mad if we don’t wait to go outside to do our “business” (eliminate). We even recognize that tone of voice or that body posture you get when you are upset with us. But if I didn’t get to go for that car ride with you yesterday, well that’s just over and done with as far as I’m concerned.
We know that you humans tend to hang on to that stuff. And I’m really sorry that I may have chewed on that table last week but I’ve forgotten all about that now. So it’s confusing to me if you still act all mad at me around the table. I didn’t do anything wrong today! Maybe if we could get past this specific incident and focus on what’s happening now it would be easier on both of us.
I Need A Life Too
You humans are pretty terrific. I mean that! The balls and the frisbees and the bones and the toys are fabulous. We love going for walks with you and smelling all the great things out there in the world. It’s fantastic when we get to play together. You have invented so many fun games to play. But, you know, sometimes something else can catch our interest.
Maybe it’s a smell on the breeze, maybe it’s a new dog across the field, maybe sometimes we just get tired and sometimes we just need a break. Just because I want to go and have a sniff for a little bit doesn’t mean I don’t want to hang out with you ever again. Sometimes a dog just needs to do a bit of doggy stuff like chase a squirrel or investigate a smell on a post. Can we just get a minute without you getting all mad about it?
And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to take me out for a run once and a while, ok? I love where we live and there’s lots of great stuff to do there but getting out is lots of fun. Even a ride in the car once in a while is a nice change of scenery. I like playing with other dogs. I had brothers and sisters when I was young, remember.
So I wouldn’t mind a little “dog time” every once in a while to check out a smell or have a run with some friends. I know you may want me to do something for you but if I get distracted, maybe have a little understanding for a dog just being a dog.
Of course our dogs can’t talk. And even if they could, they probably wouldn’t be this eloquent. But I think the sentiments ring true. We do need to understand our dogs and I think we owe them a little slack, just time to be a dog every now and then. They give us so much and do what we ask of them most of the time.
Maybe if we keep these three things in mind, we can enjoy our dogs more. If we treated them like they were eager and willing to work with us, maybe we could be better teachers. If we accepted that they forgive us and move on, maybe we could be more forgiving of their mistakes too. And maybe if we gave them a little time to just be dogs, they would be happier companions too.
It’s a thought anyway. Have fun with your dogs!
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