I am so dearly tired of the nagging suspicions that other dog owners are not good enough, don’t know enough….
I see it on facebook groups, when I talk to other dog owners I meet, on Instagram and even from people that have never had a dog. Where I rarely see it is from educated behaviorist or highly educated trainers. It seems so many are so quick to jump on the idea that others are not doing enough for their dogs. A post of a dog lip licking often immediately goes under the category of a stressed dog and the owner has no clue. Why would you think that from a photo? It’s a millisecond in a longer story. I have pictures of Bella where she looked scared out of her mind, but the reality is very different. Someone posts a picture of a dog having made havoc in the house while alone and so many jump to the conclusion that the dog had separation issues. It might have been bored and had a lot of fun, the weather was crap and it had had shorter walks then usual….who knows it doesn’t need to be suspicious. A dog is doing appeasement behaviours and very often people jump to the conclusion that it’s trying to calm the owner. Why? Is that the only reason for appeasement behaviours toward people? Someone mentions the word dominant and WHAM! you are as fast as a rocket launch thrown into the Cesar Millan fan club. So many seem to be actively looking for other peoples lack of knowledge or competence, some are not that bad but still have this suspicion lurking in their comments and I am so sick of it. We are dog owners all of us and not perfect any of us. Some have more knowledge then others, but if we want to inspire others I think the best way to do it is not by telling everyone that there is a watchful eye critiquing your every move with your dog, but by simply promoting what you have learned and you would like to share with others.
I see people being afraid to ask questions, post harmless pictures or show videos of training etc because so often what they get is the suspicions of others that something wasn’t up to standard. Yes there are bad owners, but be sure that they are before you voice your concern. We met our neighbors dog last week for the first time and he was training it to heel. I accidentally came to close with Bella and distracted the dog. I apologised and the owner was more concerned with telling me over and over again how the dog normally was very good at heeling. I said I understood that being distracted by another dog is quite the distraction, but he still insisted on telling me how the dog normally was almost perfectly obedient. I felt like I had by mistake caught him in a terrible wrong, and that I had been given suspicious and negative thoughts without even having them. But I get it! Because it’s so common for people to have them. I was a lot more worried with my own wrong doings and felt bad that I had ruined their training. And I think it’s sad that he should have to feel like he was under judgment when he wasn’t. When we lived in Oslo there were a lot of owners with loose dogs that had no recall or that just came running up to us. I usually handled it politely and just shrugged it off, but sometimes I reached my limit and handled it less then gracefully. I knew exactly what comments would hurt the most and that was attacking their lack of knowledge or skill as a dog owner. I never saw those dogs run up to us again. One girl spotted me from impressively long distances and immediately got out her dog toy and ran in the opposite direction waving the toy in front of her dog. Some would say it did the trick, but I don’t agree. I think I just passed along some hate. I know so well that this is the most sensitive topic for most owners and it is so sensitive because it’s always under the watchful eye of other perfect dog owners.
I think there is a lot of knowledge that needs to reach more owners including myself and I think there is a lot of room for improvement but I think the most effective way to inspire and motivate change is by being motivational and inspiring. I seldom feel inspired or motivated by someone looking down on me. Justified concern is a good thing, but know where to draw the line and think more then twice before putting even more suspicion out there. It spreads like a forest fire in a crisply dry forest. It makes people afraid to reach out and ask questions, it can even impede their fun with their dog, they might be afraid to try something new or share what they are doing with their dogs. If people ask for help, help them if you can. When someone gets their first dog it’s natural to not be an expert, if someone has had easy going dogs they might not have felt the need to read so many books that the qualify to call themselves a behaviorist. Even though it seems like basic knowledge to you it doesn’t make others bad owner for not knowing. Even the die hard Cesar Millan fans love their dogs and do what they think is in the dogs best interest.