Source: Oscar Sutton / Unsplash
Weighing in at just 30 pounds, our long-haired mixed dog, Bernie, fills our house with irrepressible enthusiasm, as well as a parade of fur bunnies under the sofa.
Bernie answers our smiles with a stunning tail and salutes the rough car keys with breakdancing and yodelling. It is a dog antidote to lethargy and death control.
I’m pretty sure there’s real affection between us and Bernie, but in the cynical days I remember Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages develop emotional bonds with their captors.
Perhaps Bernie’s fondness for us reflects the excellent food we feed him or his cozy sanctuary. We love him, but Bernie is still basically a hostage, trapped in this modern human environment where we control his coming and going, the times he can ease his bodily functions, who he communicates with, and what he eats.
True, it is not always clear who is responsible. Bernie has been known to wake me up at five in the morning, squeeze in to keep an eye on suspicious bunnies outside the window, and while walking, is able to scavenge for free snacks. My husband and I are fond of this animal, and observers might reasonably conclude that we are hostages and Bernie the captor, but of course we have the upper hand.
It can be easy to forget that pet dogs are captives. Given the many gifts they give us, are there any liberties we can give dogs in return? Here are three to keep in mind:
freedom to grow
Nature designed babies to be adorable, so they attract protection and care. The cuteness of a baby’s face draws people to pups and caterpillar breeds that retain juvenile traits — short legs, large heads, loose noses, and large eyes — throughout their lives.
Researcher Alexandra Horowitz, author of a recent book year of the puppy, reminds us that puppies age on their own. Young dogs between six months and two years are at risk of succumbing to shelters. These teenage dogs have caught up with the accelerated growth, learning, and pursuit of independence that accompanies puberty. The cuddly pup has been replaced by mass rebellion and boundary testing, making this phase a difficult period for human owners.
Giving our dogs the freedom to grow is largely symbolic. It is a way of transforming our expectations to respect the natural laws of time and growth. Perhaps one day, we may rethink neonatal radicalization in parenting programs. Right now, in our lives, we can offer dogs the freedom to grow by supporting them in their journey to maturity. We can forgive their transgressions and think carefully before ostracizing them; They may have thrown that very sweet and cuddly stage but they’re still vulnerable and they need us.
Freedom from fear and stress
Fear and stress can disrupt a dog’s health and ability to learn. However, we often overlook the signs of an animal’s discomfort. Some of the “tells” are obvious, for example when a dog is visibly shivering or has a tucked tail, but more subtle signs of stress such as averted eyes, intense panting or lip licking are easy to overlook.
Animal researcher Christina Spaulding, Ph.D., author Stress factor in dogs, suggests alerting when your dog refuses a favorite food or activity as this indicates toxic stress that is worrying. Of particular concern is the long time it takes the animal to recover after being removed from the situation.
To dramatically improve a dog’s ability to handle stress, Spaulding recommends giving dogs as much choice and control as possible. This may mean leaving some distance from the stressors or allowing them to approach in their own time frame. We can also take steps when their body language is causing them stress. For example, instead of holding a dog to hug and love, we can give him time and space to voluntarily approach us.
Freedom from boredom
Have you ever been stuck in a tiny waiting room, bored without a book, electronic device, or someone to talk to, counting the minutes until you could leave? What if I had to spend hours like this every day? You can get depressed, start knocking on the door or pull open cabinets and get into mischief.
Some dogs spend most of their lives like this. Their little ‘waiting room’ might be a cage, kennel, or apartment where they are left alone for hours to entertain themselves.
Some simple options are available, such as serving a long-lasting candy or life-size stuffed toys. One strategy that Allie Bender and Emily Strong recommended in their book Dog fertilization for the real world It is to replace an ordinary food bowl with a toy forage that requires the animal to extract food from the puzzle machine. Additional sensory and social enrichment options to engage the dog’s mind can be found in their newly released companion book.
Best of all, by making more time to walk or play together, we’re giving them the gift of our company.
She hides the dangers dogs face by sharing our human lifestyles.
#Freedoms #Offer #Dogs