There must be hundreds of articles online about earning your dog’s respect, or how to get your dog to respect you. But here’s a new concept: I think we need to respect our dogs. I mean, let’s face it… they put up with a lot from us, and they love and respect us regardless. Don’t they deserve the same from us? Too often I just have to bite my tongue when I see someone “disrespecting” their dog. I don’t mean being cruel or mistreating, as I sure wouldn’t be biting my tongue at witnessing something like that. But I’m talking about things such as what we discussed in a previous blog about “Potty walks” … by not allowing your dog the time to do his business… But there are so many other ways in which we show disrespect towards our dog… whether we mean to or not.
The 10 commandments of Canine Respect
1. Don’t get frustrated with him if he doesn’t seem to be listening or continually does something wrong. Not only does he not speak “human”, but he sees the world quite differently than we do. He’s not a mind-reader… he doesn’t understand vague commands, or our fickle tendencies. We need to be patient and loving. He tries real hard to understand our world… we need to try to understand his.
2. Respect his instincts. Try not to get “all human on him” when he sniffs dog butts, or insists on “digging to china” before bedding down (when you’re trying to sleep); or “cleans himself” in what we consider the most grotesque of ways… He’s just doing what he instinctively knows to do. Of course, you must correct him if he does something socially unacceptable, but not allowing him to be a dog will be very disorienting for him.
3. Don’t bother him when he’s sleeping. You don’t like to be disturbed when you’re sleeping. Resist the urge to pet him or create disturbances when he is trying to sleep. Likewise, don’t bother him when he’s eating. That’s just not fair. Eating is a pleasurable time for him. Let him enjoy it.
4. Speak calmly to him. Yelling does nothing more than confuse and increase tension. It will also cause your dog to create a negative association between yelling and how he feels about you.
5. Always be mindful of your responsibility to take care of him and protect him. It’s not okay to deny him his potty-walk before bed “just this one time” … or withhold his evening meal just because you’re too tired to fix it… Or not have his nails trimmed because it’s too much trouble… Or not tend to his possible discomfort (itching, limp, etc.) because “it’ll go away” … I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
6. Don’t touch him where he does not want to be touched. This will vary from dog to dog, but if your dog gives out a signal that he doesn’t like the top of his head petted, then pat his back or scratch under his chin.
7. Don’t laugh at him, tease him, or make him out to be the clown. Dogs love making us laugh, but making them the blunt of a joke is just wrong. You’ve seen the YouTube videos… people are not intending to be cruel, but they’re doing something like putting an uncomfortable outfit or prop of some sort on a dog and then laughing at him while he deals with it. How very crude and insolent. They deserve better than that.
8. Don’t let children pick on him. If 2-year old think it’s funny to pull the dog’s tail, speak up for him. He can’t speak for himself. Dogs are not play toys.
9. Be consistent…. In everything you do. Whether it be teaching him, or just our temperament towards him. He already has to live in a world that is somewhat foreign to him… don’t make it any harder on him. Different actions require different responses from him, and it can be so bewildering.
10. Don’t ignore your dog. You chose him to spend his life with you. He has no choice in the matter. Talk to him, and regularly include him in your family’s activities. The bond that will develop between you will add so much the quality of his life and yours.
“When we show respect for other living things, they show respect for us.” - Arapaho saying