By Sari Reis
For many of my formative years as a dog owner, I believed when my dog did something he wasn’t supposed to do, he was being naughty. He was then reprimanded by me or my parents with a raised voice, a finger in his face, and the words “bad dog.” The offenses varied. Whether it was an accident on the rug (which in the old days sometimes meant a rap on the nose with a rolled up newspaper), a chewed-up favorite slipper, or an overturned garbage can, the poor dog was labeled “bad” and made to feel guilty. We felt perfectly justified. The dog misbehaved and had it coming.
About 11 years ago, I started volunteering at the San Diego Humane Society. I helped take care of the dogs that were waiting for their new forever homes. While there, I met a wonderful dog trainer named Kyle. Kyle was truly a “dog whisperer.” She knew more about dogs and their behavior than I had ever dreamed possible. She took me under her wing and taught me so much about understanding canine behavior. One of the things I will always remember her saying was, “There is no such thing as a bad dog. There are bad owners, bad trainers, bad breeders, and bad situations, but no bad dogs.”
As a professional pet sitter, I now realize how right Kyle was. I try to explain the concept to our dog owner clients; especially those with puppies. If the puppy has an accident in the house, he is not bad. You need to watch the signals and keep track of the time and get him out to go potty so that doesn’t happen. And if it does, he is not bad, just a baby who is learning. If the puppy chews one of your favorite shoes, or the TV converter, he is not bad. You need to keep the things he is not allowed to chew, out of his reach and provide the appropriate puppy chew toys. When the garbage can gets overturned, the dog is not being bad. He is curious because of the smells. You need to keep the can closed and secure it where he can’t reach it.
I can go on with all kinds of different scenarios, but the point remains the same. As a pet parent, you need to be responsible. Be sure to dog-proof your home by keeping all things valuable, cherished, or potentially dangerous out of the dog’s reach. When you are home, supervise him. If he does get hold of something he shouldn’t have, offer him an acceptable alternative and remove the other object.
Dogs are sentient creatures and are sensitive to our moods, our tone of voice, and our demeanor. So show your love through praise, not criticism. Step up to the plate and take responsibility for the “mistakes” your pup may make. He will love you for it.
— Sari Reis is a certified humane education specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, call 760-644-0289 or visit missionvalleypetsitting.com.