By Lynn –
I’ve noticed a phenomenon that I don’t think is new, but it definitely becoming more prevalent.
I first thought about it when I started reading about these new halter things for dogs and how they were much more painless, funfun, etc…and I thought “Oh, OK” and moved on. It wasn’t until I recently read through a dog magazine (pet products for people who think their dogs need poofy spa stuff), observed people interacting with pups at the pet store and read a spot-on entry on a horse-related blog that it all came together.
I call it the Gentle Overload. I’m sure there’s a more appropriate word for it consisting of four letters, but I’ll refrain from that.
See, when I started reading about halters, the advertising suggested how gently you were to use it: it “gently” turns the dog’s head to the side using only “gentle” pressure from you. The no-pull harnesses “gently” guide the dog to the side when it pulls.
Please note: there is NOTHING ‘gentle’ about putting one of these restraint devices on a dog, especially for a dog that really doesn’t a) WANT to wear one, or b) ACKNOWLEDGE that it is even wearing one!
Various pet products tout their comfort and how they take the main idea above and beyond [with my comments in brackets]: booties “protect precious paws from mud, sale, fire ants” among other things [I didn’t know I should walk my dog where there’s mud? Should I not have played in that area where I saw them spraying fire ants?], high-priced Dremels “gently grind away nails…without scaring your pet” [how can one ‘gently’ grind away something? Should I tell my manicurist to not be as rough with those nasty nail files? Or should my farrier get a finer rasp so he doesn’t slough away too much of my horse’s little hoovsie?], and an eye cleaner “gently cleans lids and lashes” [yeah, right! If it’s needed, of course, but I don’t think your dog so much cares that its eyes look battingly beautiful as much as it wants your darn fingers off a very sensitive area!].
Maybe someone can enlighten me on why we suddenly have to treat our pets with kid gloves. Just like with the mustang on the horse blog (which can be read here, but the way), it seems more and more these days that our pets are made of the most fragile bone china, or the lightest balsa wood. We must understand that they can hurt us very badly, but to otherwise lift a finger against them is to fracture their fragile self-esteem, or even cause them to wither to dust and blow away.
Is it something to do with the fact that more and more people are relating to their dogs as children and treating them as such? If so, let me say this: you may have a dog in PLACE of a child, but your dog is NOT a child! Oh, I understand that dogs communicate better with humans that our closest relatives, but that doesn’t make them human. It’s similar to children who dress up dolls and put them in strollers as if they were real children: the child might relate well to the doll because it is so similar to being a real person, but it is still not real. (Thank goodness for this, because I’d just come unglued if TODDLERS starting having children. Heaven knows that I go on enough rants about teen pregnancy!)
Or perhaps this craze has something to do with how dogs are being treated nowadays? Recent news polls indicate that people (Americans in this case, but I suspect we are not alone) consider pets family. More and more pets are kept in the home these days, and in the home comes more interactions and a closer relationship. Unfortunately, we are back to the argument that keeping a pet in the house doesn’t make it human: it simply means that at the very best, your dog gets a higher quantity of attention, interaction and care. While I VERY tempted to say that it is a “quality relationship” the dog gets by living inside, sometimes it is not. A quality relationship is a healthy one in which the dog respects the owners and their belongings, where the dog is well-behaved and responds to requests and commands in a prompt, relaxed, confident manner. (This would explain why, while my friend owns the dog, I have a more quality relationship with it when I am over there because I don’t accept dominance behaviors!) However, this seems not to be the case for many dog owners. Because of their proximity to what we define as family, this mindset starts becoming something of a problem: Would I treat my little brother as I treat the dog? Why should I, when the dog is family?
Maybe the pure-positive advocates are at fault for the Gentle craze. In expecting us to train dogs without the use of a fair correction, they are in fact pushing pacifist regimes upon an animal that doesn’t understand the use of checks and balances: indeed, we use the figurative imagery of the phrase “give and take,” while the dog instead uses the literal meaning! I was once given the excuse that “Mother nature is harsh and we don’t have to be.” Whew, good thing we’ve found a way to tell her to stop all those tornadoes in Dixie alley, keep those darn plates still so we don’t have earthquakes and tsunamis, and stop those nasty hurricanes that destroy luxury beach houses! I guess we aren’t so cruel after all anyway, what with all those wars we have going on, assaults, robberies, scammers, murders, and those pedophiles are just filling a need, right? Good thing us humans are so much more peaceful than those nasty berries that give us the runs!
Dogs are extremely resilient creatures, as are most animals. We’ve all seen the cases where the dog or cat or horse could be used as an effective anatomy lesson on the skeletal structure, and with some care, medication if needed, and properly rationed food, the physical condition of the animal will improve. Their bodies are tough and can go through things that we humans cringe merely thinking about: what normal person looks forward getting kicked in the groin by a cow or running up and down the fells all day collecting errant sheep? What human will remain stoic and silent after a hit-and-run when a bone is sticking out of the leg, or the leg is connected by a fragment of skin?
Just as dogs’ bodies are not fragile, neither are their minds. They have personalities and temperaments just like people, and some people take this to mean that their dog MUST be human, because obviously resemblance equals BEING. Oh I wish that were the case sometimes, although the thought of having to pick micro-mini horse turds out of the far corners of my room is debatable! The mind (and body) of a dog is, simply put, unbreakable through most pet owners’ means: there are few things the average dog owner can do to truly break his dog short of actually trying to, and at that point we no longer call him the average dog owner. We do not put our dogs’ bodies to the test with beatings, starvations and harsh chemical treatments. Even a lack of training doesn’t break the mind; it only indicates that there is a relationship void that needs filled, and behavioral connections that need rewired.
So whose fault is it that we are so afraid to hurt our poor babies?
I’m guessing it’s somewhere on the other end of the leash from the four-legger.