We all love our dogs.  In fact, there are many folks nowadays who love their dogs like they are family members.  I think this is fine.

Where it ceases to be fine, though, is when we start thinking that we need to treat our dogs EXACTLY like we want to be treated.  I’m a big fan of the Golden Rule.  When it comes to dogs, though, it just doesn’t always apply.

Let me give you some examples:

  • This is one I’ve heard a lot.  I had a client just the other day ask me about this and I’ve heard several variations over the years.  The client mentioned that one of their dogs slept in the crate and one of them slept out of the crate.  They wanted to know if this was okay because it didn’t seem fair.  I asked them about the dog that slept in the crate.  Apparently if she slept loose she would pace and whine throughout the night.  When she was put in the kennel for bed, however, she immediately conked out and went right to sleep.  My response to this client was, ‘Well, it sounds like she’s happier in the crate then…right?’ to which they responded in the affirmative.  I counseled them to realize that if the dog was happier and there was no training problem to speak of then why would they have an issue?  They said it just didn’t feel ‘fair’ that one dog was crated and the other not.  Remember, dog owners, it’s not about YOU.  It’s about what makes your dog happy and well adjusted.  You don’t need to feel bad with your dog in the crate if your dog is happily catching Z’s.
  • Going along with the crate theme, I often help puppy owners get their dogs crate trained.  The first thing I recommend to them is to not put a blanket or bedding in the crate.  Puppies are likely to chew on it and are more likely to pee on bedding than if the bedding weren’t there.  The response I often hear is, “Ohhhh…my poor puppy.  She won’t be comfortable without a bed.”  Remember, dog owners, it’s not about YOU.  YOU probably wouldn’t be comfortable in a crate without a bed.  YOU also would likely not be comfy sprawled out on the tile but your dog is.  YOU probably wouldn’t roll around in deer poop or mud but your dog is perfectly happy with that.  Just because a bare crate floor wouldn’t be comfortable for you doesn’t mean that your dog isn’t A-Okay.
  • I’ve known many dog owners that leave food out in a bowl all day for their dog.  When I recommend they stop in favor of scheduled feeding the argument I hear is, “Well, I like to eat throughout the day.  I think my dog should, too.”  Repeat it with me now….It’s not about YOU.  Your dog is a carnivore.  Carnivores aren’t meant to graze on food throughout the day.  They are meant to eat full meals and then digest them over the next several hours.  YOU are not a carnivore (I’m assuming, I’ve yet to meet the carnivore dog owner).  YOU are not set up to eat the same way a carnivore does.  For YOU it is more healthy to eat several times a day.  Remember, it’s about doing what is best for your dog.

These are just a few examples.  When it comes down to it, I often compare human behavior to dog behavior and there are many parallels.  In many cases it’s perfectly okay to put yourself in your dog’s shoes.  There are many other cases, however, where you’ve just got to remember.  It’s not about YOU, it’s about what’s best for your dog.