We all long for our hazy days of youth, when we can look back, through rose-tinted spectacles, at the dogs we spent our days with.
Our expectations of modern day dogs are probably, in part, derived from our skewed memories of childhood encounters with dogs.
Did our parents need to worry about Kong toys? Did our childhood dogs attend training classes and undergo elaborate socialisation programs?
They probably didn’t, or at least we as owners didn’t implement this stuff, nor was it recommended or discussed much
Things have changed and times move on, and modern dogs face challenges their ancestors didn’t. And, as such, modern dog owners face challenges keeping modern dogs in the modern world.
Modern pet ownership certainly seems more complicated…
- dog control legislation enacted (in Ireland) in the 1990’s has meant that dogs are largely confined to an owner’s property.
This limits the dog’s access to the outside world, and to more naturally paced and exposure based socialisation and experience-building for puppies and young dogs.
Not only is it more difficult for puppies and young dogs to gain vital experience and exposure, dogs confined to their human’s properties have even further diminished choice in their lives; this is detrimental to welfare.
- dogs live more isolated lives due to increased confinement, increased incidence of living in packed suburban and urban areas, and because their families work outside of the home. Cultural trends in women returning to work and the confinement of dogs, means that dogs may spend many hours each day alone and isolated from appropriate social contact.
For social animals, this is detrimental to welfare.
- supply & demand
Supply – most pet dogs are bred accidentally, or, with an emphasis on phenotypic characteristics – either way, lots of dogs destined for the pet market are produced without adequate attention and preparation.
Placing dogs in inappropriate homes relative to the dogs’ behavioural needs, its history, environmental requirements and behaviour issues, is a worrying trend, affecting the welfare of both people and pets.
All dogs require work and commitment from their families, but dogs that bring behaviour baggage are going to require even more work and access to resources to support and help the dog in its new home.
Demand – attraction and access to a wider range of dog breeds and types, that are not necessarily suited to their owner’s lifestyle, living conditions, or location.
We cannot deny the role of selection in the behaviour a dog breed or type will tend toward. If we have selected for certain behavioural characteristics for countless generations, we cannot expect that dog to just suppress that behaviour because he now lives in a city, or housing estate, or because his owner’s work…
Bringing home a dog that is not appropriate for your lifestyle, time and resources makes it unlikely that that dog’s needs will be met, presenting a range of welfare and safety concerns.
- as society becomes less and less tolerant of dogs, the expectations thrust upon dogs become higher and higher.
Dogs are expected to be safe members of the community, friendly to all, cope with all environments, be tolerant and gentle with children, love us unconditionally, literally save lives, and improve our quality of life…
Our rose-tinted-spectacled view is informed by nostalgia for childhood pets and movie dogs. It’s a long way down from that pedestal – there is no ‘real’ dog on the planet who can live up this.
- when you know better, you do better.
We have a well-established and growing science of behaviour – this means our understanding of behaviour, learning and cognition is improving week by week, based on more than just anecdotes.
Science is self-correcting, so as we gather more information, it allows us to develop better and more effective tools.
We are learning more and more about dogs, about how they learn, and about how best to help pet owners, now more than ever.
We’re not being needlessly complicated or conservative in our approach when we make recommendations for your dog’s training and care. Dogs have it harder than ever before, and it’s become harder to provide for their needs. We can make it easier by accounting for these modern challenges, and helping pets and their people succeed in the modern world.