I class myself as a dog lover. Meet Florence our 20 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback. She’s all kinds of crazy, and I did question our sanity several times after we got her when my son was only 9 months old and I thought I would tear my hair out. But as she’s matured and settled in, she’s now a big part of our family. She’s often surprisingly gentle with my 2 year old son (although she has her bouncy moments), makes us laugh and adores my husband with something akin to hero worship.
Throughout my life I have always owned a dog, the brief exception of the three years my husband and I lived in a flat. I remember the death of my first dog like the trauma it was, and at thirteen years old sobbed for days because I knew the world would never be the same again. I never want to live in a dog-less house. They are funny, affectionate, loveable and they also make me feel safe.
But and this may be a big BUT I also think there is a layer of craziness that seems to be growing with dog ownership. I strongly believe that dogs are awesome, but they are pets, they’re not human and we shouldn’t treat them as such.
Since I originally started writing this article, there have also been a devastating spate to babies killed by pet dogs. There are just no words for how horrendous this is. I just cannot begin to imagine how those poor families are coping or feeling. But I will go back to my original point, dogs are pets, they are animals and as adorable as yours and mine is, all it takes is for them to snap one time. As owners we must stop anthromophising dogs, love them yes, but do not believe them to be human.
We have a few simple rules in our house, maybe you think I’m mean? But this means that:
1. Dogs Aren’t Allowed On The Furniture
Not on the sofa, not on the beds, not on our laps (unless we sit on the floor with them). Ok there is a practical element in that my dog at 40kgs is the size of a small pony, but even if I had a small dog this would the rule.
I mean seriously, they can be quite smelly, they are regularly muddy, they puke without notice, they have sharp things called claws, they like to spread out. Why would you want that on your bed/sofa?
2. They Don’t Get Leftovers
My husband and I try very hard to ensure our dog doesn’t get overweight. Our previous dog had very bad arthritis, so weight management was essential to keep him moving. But I have since then developed a bit of a dislike to seeing overweight pooches, like they’re missing out on their running and playing potential. A bit prejudiced of me I know given my own weight battles! For this reason our dog doesn’t get any food leftovers, only her normal food, training treats and denta-sticks. With the odd fresh meaty treat. She doesn’t know any different.
3. They’re Not Allowed Upstairs
This wasn’t originally the case and the rule came in place after our previously mentioned arthritic dog nearly had a nasty accident. I was about 6/7 months pregnant at the time and his legs gave out and he came tumbling down the stairs towards me. I remember the look on his face as he desperately tried to stop the fall in the end he dug his claws into the carpet and I grabbed his bottom and between the two of us we got him upstairs (my husband was out). After then we decided he was no longer able to go upstairs and at first he would cry at night or try and run up the stairs even when he couldn’t :-(. When we bought Florence home to save this in the future, we decided on rule 3. But actually I hindsight I don’t think it’s unhealthy to have a human only area of the house.
4. Humans Come First
While our home is also our dog’s home, humans should and will always come first. This means if a guest comes to our house who is afraid of dogs, within reason, the dog will be shut in a different room. Human needs always supersede doggy ones. Although it is important this means they are still well cared for.
5. Children And Dogs Are Never Left Unattended
We have lots of baby gates in our house. More than is needed for a single troublesome little toddler, and this is quite simply in order for us to create separate zones between dog and child. Sometimes this is because the dog is being too rambunctious, sometimes because my two year old is, and the dog needs a break. It gives me places to put the dog if I need to run to the loo or the door and know that she is not in the same room as my child. You just never know what could happen and this has been a rule in our house since we brought our son home from the hospital.
It’s not just about this of course, I am going through an education process with my son about what is acceptable behaviour with a dog. Tail pulling for example gets an immediate time out. But I want them to grow up happily together, and this means educating my son as much as my dog on acceptable behaviours around each other, so they can be little boy and doggie best friends :-).
Points 1 and 3 however do not apply to the cat because, honestly you try *snort*.
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Or do you think I’m a mean doggie mummy? 😉