Culture of dog ownership? What’s that?

But seriously, what is it?

One hears about it, one may even promote it, one refers to it a lot. We do too, it’s one of our main goals. But what exactly does the culture of dog ownership mean? If it’s such a huge deal, let’s explore it a bit, shall we? Let’s start at the beginning.

Would you say you’re a cultured dog owner? Without thinking, most people would answer, ‘Of course I am, I don’t chain the dog and there’s even straw in its kennel in the winter.’ Okay, that’s it, discussion over, let’s move on, nothing to see here… So this means that most dog owners in the country are cultured. Ahemm… Is that really all it’s about? No, it’s not. There’s, for instance, picking up the poop the dog leaves behind. ‘I always collect it, that is, unless I forget about it… Anyway, my dog ownership culture is through the roof, innit?’ Yeah. No need to read further. Off to the pub with you.

Yeah, all right, the Poop Fairy doesn’t exist. But what else is there? 

There are some pointers which, if we keep in mind, we can truly say we’re cultured pet owners. And, of course, millions of tiny things which, when heeded, can increase our quality of life, our dog’s and of course that of our environment. That’s an important point, actually. Dog ownership culture is not just about you or your dog, there’s your environment, too, that is, your family, the neighbours, your inner and outer circle. Anyone you get in contact with. Harmonious co-existence of these three parties – dog, owner and the environment – is what truly matters. Like it or not, we live in a symbiotic relationship, we all affect one another. A dog may make the life of your family or community miserable. Wait, is that really what’s going on? Nonsense. It’s not the dog that makes life miserable, it’s the person with a lack of dog ownership culture who makes the dog’s life a living hell, and consequently, their own and others’ lives as well. Human stupidity, obtuseness and the unwillingness to improve is the source of this misery, not the poor dog who’s merely a victim of these negative human factors.

Let’s have a look at the main points, starting at the very beginning. I mean the *VERY* beginning, before we even get a dog.

The big decision. Do I want it? Do I need it?

The decision is made: someone wants a dog. This is where the willingness of learning the culture of dog ownership is first tested. We have to ask ourselves a big bunch of questions before we do anything. It’s indeed a big bunch of questions, there are as many as there are dogs awaiting their masters at the shelters, and you have to take them just as seriously. The analogy is not accidental: there’s a reason all those dogs are there. Yup, you got it. They’re there because someone didn’t do a good job when they were supposed to ask themselves the important questions.

What’s my lifestyle, my job like? What about my daily schedule? Can I *REALLY* devote enough time to this dog? What’s my family’s opinion on the whole matter? Where do I live, in an urban or country environment? Do I have a garden? Can I go by the decision I make now in 10-15 years, too? What about financials? Can I really give my dog everything it needs? Can I care responsibly for a living creature that has feelings? Wait a minute, a living creature? Does that mean I can’t turn them off at will? Nope, you can’t. If this is a deal-breaker for you, you might as well stop right there: you shouldn’t get a dog.

Do I really want that dog, or is this just another one of my short-lived whims? What are the consequences it entails? We could go on indefinitely, but I think I’ve made my point. Remember the Gift video from a couple of years ago? If not, check it out, it illustrates what I’m talking about beautifully: a bad decision whose results had not been considered.

I know a lot of people who say they love dogs, but considering the present circumstances, they dare not get one, because a dog deserves better than what they can provide at the moment. In my eyes, they are a great deal more responsible and cultured dog owners without even having a dog than those who don’t care for their dog properly.

The choice. Ok, what kind of dog should I get?

You’ve made your decision. You’ve given it a lot of thought, and the inner voice keeps screaming: I want a dog!

Another question, another test. This is where I should write down the same thing as above, the whole malarkey with all the badly asked questions and incorrect answers, and the number of dogs at the pounds, or in a marginally better case, not a pound but the search for a better, more responsible owner. Nevertheless, the results are still far from good, and this leads to a great deal of disappointment for everyone involved. It’s worthwhile to inform ourselves and have a good think. Even if you’ve answered the ‘Do I really want it?’ questions correctly, reality can still punch you in the face at this point… and only after a couple of months have been spent together.

In the jungle of questions, our job is a bit easier. Now, I didn’t say ‘easy’, just ‘easier’. You already know you want a dog. But what kind, and from where? Let’s stick to ‘what kind?’ for now; we’ll cover ‘from where?’ in another blog post.

Weigh your decisions!

Small? Medium? Large? Wow, so many choices. But let’s look at the specifics. Shorthair or longhair? Erect or droopy ears? These are just the immediately obvious physical characteristics. Should I get a stud or a bitch? Let’s back up a bit, this approach is all wrong. We should ask ourselves why we need that dog. For work? To have a jogging partner? To guard the house? Do we want to try a sport that involves dogs? Which one? If we want to win an IPO championship, a border collie might not be the best choice. On the other hand, he or she could be a great agility partner. What if it’s not sports we want a dog for, ‘just’ to have a pet? What’s my personality like? Here we are at another critical juncture. What are you like? I’m a big softie, I cannot be consistent, so a wilful, dominant breed might not be the best choice. Am I sure it’s an Azawakh stud I want, if I live in a block of flats, I’m away from home at least 10 hours a day and I can’t take the dog with me, and to top it off, I can’t even resist giving a piece of salami to the neighbour’s cat when it looks at me with its sad eyes?

Let’s be optimistic and assume we managed to answer all questions correctly, and we’re at the point where the family gets a new member. How do we go on? When do we become responsible, cultured dog owners? What exactly makes us that? This is what we’ll explore in the second part of this post. Soon…

Until then, have fun with dogs, and I wish upon you a lot of clothes covered in lovely dog hair. Woof-woof!

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