I have become more and more concerned about the state of dog’s community. What makes me feel uncomfortable is that it is reminding me about the performance horses business, where animals are treated as machines designed to fulfill humans desires. It was a world I was running away from, few years ago, because I was terrified how instrumentally animals were treated.
Animals are always in a no-win situation when confronted with humans, especially in the anthropocentric culture we are living. But the scale of this objectification is growing, and what is more, it is visible in the communities that should represent the opposite philosophy. I am talking about dog sport world. In my opinion so called „sport dogs” are more often treated as devices, machines under absolute humans control.
People love to control everything. Always and forever. If we add to the equation our egocentrism we can easily be lost. Dogs are absolutely depended on us, and unfortunately we are using it to the maximum.
Very often I am observing people feeding their dogs only during training. They are conditioning the very first and obvious dog’s need to his obedience. Dog has to do tricks to receive food. One of the most ridiculous reasons I have heard, why to do this was „to increase motivation”. Well… Hunger is not the same as motivation. I believe that depriving the dog his basic need to achieve our own goal is inhumane and even unhealthy. Every dog has a right to receive a bowl of food and to eat it in a quiet and peaceful environment. But do not get me wrong. I trading with my dogs, five or six times a week. They often eat theirs portions during work. But no matter what they always get a bowl at least once a day. So despite the example of obese and fat dogs, lack of interest in food during training session, is never solved with starving. I would never, ever like to work with a dog who does it only because he is hungry. There is much more I value in our relationship.
The next point is so called self-control or zen protocol. Recently, it has been the latest and biggest fads of the dog training world. Unfortunately overusing it can cause some serious issues. It is a pressure for dogs, when you overuse it kills creativity and the ability to make your own decisions. But everyone use it, blankly repeating the exercise with open-closed hand. There are, of course, examples where this can be profitable and useful, but always to a reasonable extend. I see more and more dogs addicted to it. They expect this hand to be an answer to every single activity. Puppies do not offer anything, because it is better to freeze and wait for a hint than to try something.
We are creating zombie-dogs, relying on humans when it comes to actually everything.
Crate is an amazing tool in dog’s life. Unless it is treated as prison, where the dog is released only for quick pee and work. It is convenient, for humans. Dog is not destroying anything, does not do unwanted thing. Dog goes out, „motivated” (it is his only interesting activity during the day), he fulfills our plan and goes back to crate. He has no interactions with other dogs, expect form the training partners, but he has to ignore them. Walks, well yeah, there are walks with friends sometimes, but under extreme control. Do not do this, that, do not look there, do not touch, do not sniff do not.. Be a dog!
My dog can NOT
That is something I hear all the time. After a while I can really say dogs can not do almost anything. But there is countless number of things they have to do. They have to be motivated, fast, drivey, healthy, obedience, precise. The truth is, sport is our desire, not the dog’s. Of course dogs were breed to work with humans. The current world of canine sports is dangerously turning into what we could have observed during recent Olympic games in Rio. Superhuman or superdog abilities. But there is slight difference, people are willing to have sport careers, dogs? Not so much. We are raising the bar higher and higher, not paying attention to the fact that some of our criteria are met only when sacrificing natural dogs behaviors.
For me the dog is the living, feeling, thinking creature on the first place. They have personality and individuality and uniqueness. The dog has a right to have preferences, feel joy, sadness, fear. My dogs have a choice if they want to work with me or not. I want them to make decisions, at least in this very tiny space of self-realization we have left them. I do not expect to sit before every bowl of food, down before every crate release. On the other hand my dogs do not expect permission to do basic , everyday activities. Because they are not machines or our slaves. Of course we have rules, because everyone need rules, but they are based on mutual respect. Please remember, the fact that we have created the anthropocentric world, means that we have not only privileges, but also duties toward the ones we have so arbitrarily made depended on us.