Making friends with other dog owners seems like a natural thing to do. After all, you meet each other at all kinds of different dog-related places from the vet to the dog park to the local ballfield, groomer, pet store, and more. It only seems right that you would form some sort of alliance given all of the things you share in common. Yet trying to form a friendship with another dog owner can be challenging. Though you both agree that dogs make fantastic pets, there are many topics that you might have a hard time discussing civilly because your opinions are diametrically opposed to one another. Maintaining a close relationship with someone who has strong beliefs on a common issue takes careful navigation and a commitment to remaining friendly with one another even when you must agree to disagree. With this in mind, what are the top five topics that dog owners often disagree about?
Adopt, Don’t Shop
One of today’s most frequently repeated “mantras” is “Adopt, don’t shop” with proponents falling on both sides of the equation. The reality is the entire issue is slightly more nuanced than many realize.
There is no question that we have a pet overpopulation problem in today’s world. The number of unwanted pets euthanized in shelters on a daily basis is both appalling and heartbreaking. Many people are quick to blame breeders claiming that every time a purposefully bred litter of purebred puppies enters this world it sounds a death knell for dogs in shelters waiting for families of their own.
However, it is not reputable breeders whose puppies are ending up in shelters, and their “clientele” are most often people with a love for a specific breed who are looking for a puppy that will be predictable in temperament, appearance, and size; something that is hard to find in a rescue or even a mixed breed dog. People who wish to have a specific breed of dog would not necessarily have one at all if the breed of their choice was no longer available for one reason or another. Some families have become very attached to their breed, and for them, nothing else will do. To say that reputable breeding practices should be stopped until all homeless dogs have found a home is to oversimplify a complex problem. The reality is that some families when faced with adopting a dog of unknown origins or having no dog at all; they would choose no dog, and this is their right.
The truth is there is room in our world for the preservation of long established purebred breeds, and there is also room for rescue efforts. Choosing a rescue dog is not better than selecting a purebred; it is simply different.
Though backyard breeders, puppy mills, and oops litters are most often responsible for the unwanted dogs lining shelters today, the blame for today’s problem lies more squarely at the feet of owners. Many purchase a puppy on an impulse and when the puppy becomes work decide to deposit the dog at a local shelter where the intention is for the pooch to find another family that can provide more time for him. The sad reality is that family may have just condemned the puppy to death since many shelters are high kill facilities, euthanizing loving dogs simply to make space for the next batch that will find themselves surrendered and homeless.
We live in a disposable society where it has become all too easy for people to pass off their problems onto someone else. In today’s society, people feel far too free to take their dog and leave him at the shelter with little care for his well-being or feelings. They wipe their hands clean, and the dog becomes someone else’s problem. This is humanity at its lowest, and it is a problem perpetuated by owners not breeders.
Pedigree and parentage has nothing to do with the value of a dog. All life is valuable, and every dog that enters the world should have a place to call his own and a family that loves him. However, many families are ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that can come with a rescue. Though dogs end up in shelters every day through no fault of their own, it is difficult to ascertain their origins, meaning everything from predictability of size and genetics to inherited health conditions and temperament issues are an unknown. Though many dogs adopted from shelters go on to make excellent family companions, some are a training challenge that many people simply don’t have the resources, time, or patience to solve. Some dogs have not been temperament tested to ensure suitability in a home with other animals or even children, and disaster can ensue. Some dogs are aggressive beyond redemption and for their own safety and well-being should be humanely euthanized. Not every family is prepared to deal with these challenges, particularly if they were just looking for a new canine companion to love.
It is unlikely that the “Rescue Only” people will ever completely see eye to eye with the “Purebred Crowd.” This is why on this issue it is often best for all good dog owners to agree to disagree.
“It’s All in How They Are Raised”
People often use this phrase in reference to “Pit Bulls.” There are many misconceptions that exist around these types of dogs which are often lumped into a singular category commonly known as “Bully Breeds.” Throughout history, many different breeds have been stereotyped and legions of people have rallied for their extinction, claiming they were harmful to themselves and others. Yet the dogs that would fall under this category often bear little resemblance to the true Bull Breeds such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or the American Pit Bull Terrier. The one qualifying characteristic these breeds typically share in common is a muscular frame and a box-like head.
Many of the “Bull” breeds were originally intended to serve as fighting dogs. To achieve a dog with the desire to fight tenaciously, certain temperament traits were favored over others, and these dogs were selectively bred to produce a quality known as “gameness” which is the desire to fight to the point of death if necessary.
However, there is one word which features prominently in the breed name of each of the true fighting breeds—“terrier.” By nature, terriers are working dogs who were bred with an intense drive to chase, hunt, and kill prey. This trait is inherent in them and is still alive in terrier breeds today.
What does this mean?
While environment does play a role in shaping the temperament and personality of a dog, it is not the only factor nor is it the strongest one. Research shows that temperament is largely genetic. This is why reputable breeders take such care to only breed together two animals of sound temperament and why aggressive dogs have no place in a breeding program at all, for any reason.
Will a dog treated badly become aggressive towards other animals or people? Possibly, but not always. There is no guarantee. However, many dogs are treated lovingly from the minute they are born and still develop aggressive traits.
How can this be explained?
One quick look at the temperament of the dog’s ancestors provides the simple answer to that question.
Bully breeds are well-established to have what is known as dog on dog aggression. If this type of puppy is introduced to animals in his new home from the time he joins his family, it is possible that he may learn to co-exist peaceably with his housemates. However, this is not a guarantee nor is it an indication of how the dog will respond if introduced to other dogs or cats outside his home.
It is not a flaw in the makeup of these types of dogs. For many breeds, it is part of what made them game hunters and experts at the work they were intended to do. It has been bred into them for centuries, and it will not be trained out of them simply because an owner doesn’t like the trait. Genetically inherited temperament traits are nearly impossible to overcome.
In the battle of Nature vs Nurture, both are important. But nature trumps nurture every time.
Some folks love them; some folks hate them, and you will find out very quickly which “camp” your new dog loving friends belong to.
Are dog parks bad?
Well, the truth is it is difficult to assign a moral judgment on an inanimate object. Dog parks are what you make of them.
While it is true that many owners treat dog parks as a place to dump their dog to work out his own social skills while they check Facebook on their phones or chat with their friends, there are also many dog owners who arrive at the crack of dawn to allow their dogs ample time to run at an hour of the day when there are few dogs there for them to interact with.
People who love dog parks often have breeds who are not known for causing or reacting to conflict with other dogs. However, the dog park is a very poor place for a dog to learn socially appropriate behavior. The dogs at the park are s random sampling of canines in your community, and thus, you will also get a mix of personalities and temperaments. Just as with people, not all dogs get along, and it often takes management and supervision to prevent a fight from breaking out. Some people prefer to avoid dog parks altogether as a negative interaction could have lasting repercussions for their dog. Still others opt to try to limit their visits to a time of day when the park sees low traffic.
Another consideration is the fact that dog parks often have no rules regarding vaccinations, meaning it is possible to pick up an illness or disease from a visit there. For many, this is a compelling reason to keep their dog at home and find alternate venues for exercise.
Still, some dogs do need a good run, and it’s hard to find fully fenced spaces where Fido can let loose and really stretch his legs.
The quickest way to end a friendship with a dog owner is to bring up the subject of tools. The most popular method of dog training today is positive reinforcement, a technique which relies heavily upon verbal praise and treats in response or as a reinforcer for correctly performed cues. However, some dog owners claim that purely positive training is ineffective for some dogs, and it is necessary to make use of other training tools which many consider to be aversive such as prong collars, choke chains, and even e-collars which deliver electronic currents to pressure points on a dog’s neck when prompted by a remote controlled by the owner.
What all dog owners agree on is the fact that all dogs need to be properly trained to be good canine members of society as well as for their own safety.
Tempers run extremely hot on this topic with proponents of positive reinforcement training only going so far as to call users of aversive tools abusers. In like fashion, trainers who employ different tools and methods to achieve what they call “balanced training” level the accusation back that purely positive advocates are little more than “cookie trainers.”
In the good old days, it was much easier to feed a dog. Many dogs existed on scraps tossed from their master’s table and opening a can of Gravy Train was considered a real treat. Today, we know so much more about nutrition than we once did, and it’s really gone to our heads.
With so many food choices available to us, it can be very difficult to come to any conclusion which dog food is the best for our beloved pets. Traditionally, kibble has been the food of choice for most families. Yet just a quick trip to the local pet store yields so many options it’s enough to boggle your mind! Then there is the whole grain free or no grain free issue, and just to cause even more confusion, why not consider a home cooked diet or even raw?
It seems no two dog owners can agree on this issue! The bottom line is each dog is different, and as such, responds differently to different foods.
Can two dog owners ever completely agree?
On many topics, the answer would be yes, but when it comes to our top five, you are more often to run into disagreement than agreement. For best results and to keep a friend, agree to disagree. It’s always the best way!