Friday, 8 June 2007

Once a dog, always a dog


Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets and Europeans are not far behind. What does this industry entail? Well, if you look on the internet, you will find things you have never even dreamed about. I mentioned yoga for dogs a few posts ago but there is more, much more. Pooper-scooper Service is a flourishing growth business for anybody who can carry a shovel. Every year billions are spent on dog food, dog souvenirs, therapeutic diets for dogs, dog clothing and accessories, sweaters, rain jackets, doggie hats, designer goggles, booties, shirts, scarves and even Halloween and Father Christmas costumes. Money is spent on pet toys, pet treats. Breeding dogs is big business. Big business opportunities lie in dog behaviour analysis. Training classes are available anywhere. Also in dog walking, dog sitting, dog day care centres. Dog whispering is fashionable. So is "dog listening". Dog shrinks are a must in Hollywood. Anything you can think of really.
But what does all this mean? It means we are losing touch with what having a dog is all about. I accept this is different from one person to the next but let’s keep things into perspective. A dog is a dog and is not a furry human on 4 legs. A dog does not think and a dog does not learn. He does not behave like a human and does not have human reactions. A dog should not be treated like a human. A dog is conditioned. We teach him how to behave. I hear things like: “ You will get a biscuit if you are a good doggy” or “Come to Mummy for a cuddle” or “Why don’t you come back when I call you, you stupid dog”. The dog does not understand these words. He will get something out of the intonations of your voice or your body language. But how does he interpret these words? We must remain consistent in the way we deal with our dog. More about this some other time.

19 comments:

John Lancaster said...

In my family, my dog is the only one who listens to me.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You're quite right, but I talk to Simi about everything! I know it's tone of voice. She responds to people who talk to her kindly in Italian and to me when I use that language. And she always knows if I'm unwell - by examining my hair!

jmb said...

Good post Eurodog. All we doglovers know it but sometimes we forget it and treat our dogs like our furry four legged children. But I have always been big on dog obedience and each dog I have owned has been trained properly and I am always the alpha dog. I have to say this took an incredible amount of work with my Westie. They are very stubborn.
Do they have doggy day care in Belgium too?

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Eurodog said...

jmb,
No we don't have a structured doggy day care system in Belgium.
Maybe there is a business opportunity for me there.

I, like the view said...

I love your writing and your views - so sensible and down to earth in a world where sometiems everyone seems caught up with the latest trend

(I wish you might write about humans like this too!)

Radio said...

oh well. there is much to say. and i don't at all intend to disagree. but if a dog does not 'actually' understand the 'come here so you can get cuddle' thing then why does it matter if it is spoken? i mean, we know that you can use the word 'banana' for all commands and your dog will still sit, stay, come etc, depending on your bodylanguage and intonation etc.

i believe so long as your dog is responsive and behaves in a good way it doesn't matter how that's achieved.

my granddad was a mad man (he was a sailor and then horse trainer), he used to take bets and work with dangerous dogs in small cages (i was a kid then and there were still many guarddogs kept in outdoor cages during daytime, a practice thankfully no longer common).

so he used to take bets and then enter the cage, the dogs barking mad. however, he never touched the dogs in there and the dogs never attacked him. he used to talk silly things to them all the time and the voice and his relaxed body was what seemingly calmed them down.

Ellee said...

"Listening" dogs are important for people who need company. This is an example of the "Hearing" dog I was telling you about:

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/features/2007/06/09/4edb23c7-da87-42eb-9266-72dadf81b89f.lpf

Steve G said...

i enjoyed the post. Still hope to get a dog...someday.

Eurodog said...

ellee,
oh yes, I agree with you but I meant dog "listening" which is a variation on a theme of dog whispering.

Rebecca Taunton said...

An interesting post ED. You could spend a fortune on the must-have gimmicks and paraphernalia, but at the end of the day you still have a dog; and I agree that a dog needs to be trained.

The latest thing seems to be: if I can't get the dog to behave myself (with limited effort, of course...because dogs should come ready trained), I'll pay someone else to do it. Seems to be increasingly the same with children too. In today's society, everthing can become a commodity.

Eurodog said...

RT, I tell dog owners dogs do not come with an instruction manual and that's up to them. Some look at me with disbelief.

Rebecca Taunton said...

ED - Unfortunately, I can well believe that!

VioletsVintage said...

I agree. I can spend an entire morning in the dog kennels getting the dogs to do what they need to do without saying anything out load. They are great at watching and reacting to signals. Quite astounding really, how tuned in they are visually. My mother would say "they don't miss a trick!"

Julie said...

I have to disagree. I talk to my dog all the time, before I had a dog I'd talk to myself all the time. But over time, I've noticed that my dog responds to more words and phrases - even when I'm speaking to someone else.

Eurodog said...

Julie,
The point I was trying to make is that we tend to treat our dogs like baby humans.
Thank you for your comment anyway.

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StaynerDefence said...

Its not all about logic you know, we are (both dog and man) not machines. Why does one talk to a few days old baby?-not because she understands. It's a two way street, talking to a dog satisfies the hearer and the speaker at some level. Dogs are not humans...hmmm...whatever that is supposed to mean... Both are life forms, both have emotions, we just don't understand each other's language as well as we would like, that's all. It is much easier to say "dogs don't have human reactions" and move on, isn't it? That's what different cultures seem to have thought about each other during first encounters....