I saw two different faces of dog ownership today, and it made me wonder how we can sometimes get it so wrong.
The first person was a man who had been a professional dog handler, although I won't say in exactly what capacity as I'd like to think others in his profession treat their dogs with more respect. It obviously put this man's back up when I was introduced to him as someone who writes about dogs, as his opening remark was, "Oh it's you that won't let me use a choke chain is it?" I was a little taken aback and didn't really know what to say to that, so he ploughed on, telling me that a choke chain was most effective with a big man on the end of it and that, "I've had my dog so that if I just shook the chain and he was thirty feet away, he'd squeak because he'd had it thrown at it that many times." I think it says a lot about him as a person as well as a dog trainer - and a professional dog handler at that - that he felt the need to treat his dog in this way, but it reveals even more about him that he chose to tell this to a stranger with great pride within the first minute of meeting me.
I got out of that conversation as soon as possible and went off to the pet shop to stock up. When I got to the till the lady at the front of the queue was holding things up recounting to the assistant what a problem her five month old Jack Russell is. When there was a small pause in her tale I managed to ask quickly, "Do you have a crate?" "Yes," she replied, "But I left her in it for three nights and then took her out of it." When I asked why she said pitying my for my ignorance, "She wasn't happy - she didn't make a fuss or anything, but I could tall she didn't like it." The woman was buying a training book by the wonderful Gwen Bailey, but I suspect she will read it and choose to ignore the sound advice on offer. As I left the shop she was still telling all and sundry that her dog was waking her up several times a night, and her husband wasn't happy about it. A crate would have solved so many of her problems with her puppy, but trying to persuade her would have been a waste of time, she was that kind of person.
So there you have it - a man who used physical abuse to train his dog, and a woman who denied her dog a safe place and will continue to create more problems by projecting her own feelings onto her dog, and refusing to see things from the dog's point of view. Perhaps the ideal owner is in the middle of these two, and I have to say that if I were a dog I would prefer the woman to be my owner than the man, but meeting them both within five minutes certainly gave me food for thought. I mulled it all over as I drove home to my own dogs, who have both been happy to use a crate, but who have never had a choke chain used to intimidate them.