Years ago, I was at a family event. One family and their dog, let's call the dog Fluffy, were there at the same time. It was summer and we were spending time at the lake. Of course, there was a barbecue involved, with rib-eye steaks. When the steaks were resting off the grill, Fluffy causally walked by them and snatched one from the platter. Yes, there were one or two extra steaks, so no one was losing out. Yes, this was not putting someone out financially. I would have been horrified if that had been my dog, but Fluffy's owners laughed and said, "Well, that's just Fluffy. Love me, Love my dog."
***Disclaimer, should any of my family read this post, the person described is in no way related to me. Please don't get hurt feelings, because there is nothing personal.
I have said, "Love me, love my dog" lots of times. I have it emblazoned on a coffee mug and a t-shirt. However, especially in the last few years, I have been thinking and rethinking what this phrase really means. These are my thoughts and interpretations on the subject. I may not reflect everyone's opinions, and that is fine. Being able to agree to disagree without name-calling is what grown ups do. Here goes.
I love my dog. That is not a surprise coming from a dog trainer and anyone who knows me knows how much this is true. I think my dog is one of the sweetest, smartest, most well-behaved and fun dogs around. If someone wants to be my friend, most likely, they will have to accept that I'm going to talk about my dog. There are certain activities that I want to be sure he is included in, like hiking. If they visit my house, the dog will most likely be included in the party, unless someone has a legitimate fear of or allergy to dogs. My parents are happy to have Dakota come with me when I get home to visit them, and wouldn't think me leaving him behind. My friends even know that they don't want to ask me to choose between them or my dog. The fastest way to my heart is to be nice to or compliment my dog. He is a part of the equation, and is non-negotiable.
However, I've taught Dakota some basic manners that help him to be more welcomed anywhere we might go. He doesn't get on furniture unless invited up. Or, he shouldn't at least. He knows he is only supposed to jump up on me and only when cued. He is content hanging out in a crate if that is what is required of him. He might beg while people are eating, but he has a solid cue that means to leave the area right now. He isn't to be trusted left alone to guard food, but he is not a counter surfer when people are around. He is housebroken pretty much everywhere, and is quickly reminded if he thinks about marking. If he gets uncomfortable or over threshold in a situation, I can redirect him and contain him, to keep him and everyone safe. He doesn't chase cats or livestock, and he is pretty easy to get along with. This is all pretty much common sense, right? I think so too. A dog who follows all of these rules is definitely more lovable!
So, what does "Love me, love my dog" not mean? It doesn't mean that my dog gets to go everywhere with me. If I were invited to a dinner party at a friend's house, he most likely would be left at home, unless expressly invited. If someone doesn't find him as cute as I do, I know it's nothing personal. In fact, I don't want other people to love him like I do! It doesn't mean that I should be allowed to take him into restaurants and stores that aren't pet friendly, just because I can't handle being without him. If someone feels that he is underfoot, they are welcome to tell me that. If someone wants to redirect the conversation from dog talk, I can even accept that. I have this blog to talk dogs all day long.
Mostly, it doesn't mean that I can excuse all of Dakota's quirks, faults and naughty behavior. Yes, he is cute, and yes, he is well trained, but that doesn't mean that he is above naughty behavior. I need to take my rose colored glasses off and try to see him objectively. If he does something he shouldn't, I need to apologize, try to make it right, possibly contain him and work on prevention for the future. While I don't want someone else disciplining my dog, I also don't want them to excuse his behavior. If I were to get defensive, it is only because I know that he messed up, and I know they are right to be upset.
Love me, love my dog. It sounds so innocent, but too many dog owners take the idea too far. I recently saw a dog in a local store, and when the dog owner was confronted, she stated this little saying. She said that if the store wanted her business, they had to accept that her dog shops with her. The dog was riding in a cart and barking at strangers. This dog could actually impact the job of a real service dog or could bite someone. The dog was uncomfortable and didn't want to be there.
Let's remember that loving our dogs means teaching them boundaries. Loving them means being their advocate and not putting them into situations that they shouldn't be in. It means that we learn to read their body cues, and know what is uncomfortable to them. It means sometimes putting their needs above our own. It means knowing when to bring your dog along and when to leave them home or stay home with them. If we could all do this, we would all have dogs who are as lovable as you are!
Hi, I'm Rachel. I'm crazy about dogs and want to see all of them living the best life possible. Most of my free time is taken up by dogs, but when I am not working with my own or others, I also enjoy cooking, volunteer work, reading and Netflix in my pajamas.