Underdog, overdog, sidedog…

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underdog

When I talk to dog owners they often refer to their dogs as ‘spoilt’. They tell me about the food the dogs eat (often not suitable for dogs human snacks), the bed they can sometimes sleep on (human bed), the walks (‘he gets a walk every day’).

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overdog

I have no doubt they love their dogs. But I’m not sure how to interpret the ‘spoilt’ label. I like spoiling myself by getting super cute dog gadgets, fancy food bowls, drinking bottles, pretty little blankets and cushions, colourful harnesses and leads. I spoil myself by sleeping with my dogs in bed (I love the cuddles and the peaceful breath of my sleeping dogs). But I don’t think I spoil my dogs.

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right sidedogΒ 

I feed them nutritious food, I make sure clean water is ALWAYS available for them. Because of their right to freedom from hunger and thirst.

They have their warm, dry and safe place, with their own beds, where they can retreat at any time and be left alone. Because of their right to freedom of discomfort.

I make sure they play in a safe environment, I try to avoid giving them bad quality toys, which can be toxic or generally unsafe. I supervise their outside playtime, I make sure they are safe near roads, I vaccinate them and take them to the vet regularly. Because they have the right to be free from pain, injury and disease.

I take them for long walks every day, provide play time inside and outside. I let them dig in the garden (in the digging area), sniff most things (including other dogs’ bums), bark when they really need to communicate something, chew (appropriate objects, if I can help it), socialise with other dogs, chase birds (they do not hunt, they chase) and wee to mark their territory (outside only). Because they have their right to freedom to express normal behaviour.

I make sure they are not approached when they feel scared, I provide behavioural help to make sure they are mentally balanced, I follow the newest research into dogs’ behaviour to minimise the risk of doing any harm unintentionally. Because of their right to freedom from fear and distress.

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left (clumsy) sidedog

The ‘five freedoms‘ (or providing for five basic animal welfare needs) is comparable to Human Rights Act.

It takes a bit more to ‘spoil’ me than simply respecting my basic human rights. So I can’t say I ‘spoil’ my dogs because I don’t break their rights, either.

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26 thoughts on “Underdog, overdog, sidedog…

  1. Someone said to me yesterday that they bet Fergus was spoiled. I laughed and said, yeah, because it was a passing comment, but after reading this post — which is a keeper — I am reassured that I don’t spoil him. I blanch green beans for his food because he loves them, they’re good for him, and it helps me keep his portions normal. When I get popcorn every once in awhile, he gets popcorn-size chunks of plain rice cakes (he’s allergic to corn) that we use for training treats. I think he loves the process of popping corn and is okay that he doesn’t get the real deal. Is making the extra effort spoiling him? I don’t think so.

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  2. I think some people say their pet is spoiled to excuse themselves from not training their pets well. Then sometimes it’s a way of bragging that they buy things for their pets. You are such a wonderful doggy mom! Good read!

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    1. Thank you, I’m simply trying to be fair (in general, not just with dogs). I have a slight problem with ‘he’s so spoilt’ -when I know the dog is not getting enough exercise and is not entirely happy…and even if I get expensive toys (I’m quite scared of ‘made in China’ with no certificates and I always imagine my dogs dying from some toxic paint poisoning) – no toy will replace human interaction. Dogs can play with a piece of rope -providing the human is attached to the other end πŸ™‚

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      1. Totally agree. Didn’t mean to play devil’s advocate. I totally understand and you are right. Your pets are lucky to have you. I have two cats and am learning a lot from them. Keep up the good work!!

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      2. Oh, I know πŸ™‚ And I don’t mind people not really wanting to train their dog, if it suits them. It’s not really a rant, more my musings on how a dog’s welfare is understood in our community. It’s almost as if we’re still undecided if we want them to be part of family or just domestic animals. And it’s sometimes rather confusing when people treat their dogs as kids for some time and then decide they are ‘just animals’.

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  3. I think some people perceive their pets as toys to play with, rather than creatures for whose well-being they are responsible. Unfortunately, it is the same with parenting. Dressing a small child in expensive clothes is not spoiling the child, it is playing up to mommy’s vanity. by the same token, feeding an animal inappropriate tidbits of human food is not spoiling the animal, it’s playing up to the human’s urge to control, rather than care and share.

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    1. In my case: overspending on the dogs is a way to compensate for the fact they were ‘unwanted’. The compensation is for me. It’s a way of coping with the sense of guilt that my species is not what I’d want them to be. In a quirky way, it’s also making the snobbish dog owners slightly envious, which gives me this horrible satisfaction and smugness known to most parents (my kid is better than yours). I’m a bad, bad person…But I have no illusions: my dogs don’t care how much stuff costs: Brian chews my Β£300 shoes with the same eagerness as the Β£3 ones πŸ™‚

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  4. Love this-what a great post. All prospective pet owners should know these five freedoms off by heart before they even get an animal..you can’t spoil an animal by providing fir its basic needs. It annoys the hell out of me when I’m told I spoil my cats (or kids) Part of sharing your life with cats and dogs (or kids) is ensuring their quality of life since they are dependant on you …great post!

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  5. So well put, as usual! and….sleeping on “our” beds…..is hardly spoiling! After all, a dog’s going to go where he or she wants to, as we have learned in our fruitless efforts to keep Jack off the couch now that he’s as big as we are. He looked at us a bit pityingly, like, these poor fools! haha! how charming! they think they can keep me off this couch! He DOES have a right to comfort and conviviality and all rules are subject to revision once you share A Dog’s Life. Carry on!

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  6. Since dogs are pack animals sleeping with the entire pack (dog and human) makes perfect sense to them. As for “spoiling” them with fancy leashes and so on, that’s not for the dog. Toys are sometimes important, but with some dogs, toys mean nothing. I agree that you spoil yourself when buying things for your dogs and that’s wonderful! Your dogs are well cared for and deeply loved and if that’s spoiling them then go for it with gusto!

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    1. It’s not difficult to train a puppy to sleep in his own bed, I choose to sleep with my dogs because it’s got a calming effect on me (I’m insomniac) and -so far- I haven’t found clear evidence of this practice being harmul for either party πŸ˜‰ But what I don’t get is when people sometimes let the dogs sleep in the bed and then change their mind when they feel like it. The human bed is not some kind of reward-it messes up with the dog’s sense of security when he’s not sure where to sleep.

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      1. My Remy chooses to sleep on his own bed. It’s probably because he’s so big there’s not enough stretching room with me, my husband, and Henry on the bed. Henry prefers to sleep on our bed until he gets hot, then it’s off to his own bed…at least until he cools off! lol

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  7. I know people who never exercise their dogs, and because of their hyperactiveness, keep them outside all the time. It’s surprising how many people don’t provide for their dog’s basic needs, but claim to be spoiling them because they get them fancy leashes. Well, I wanted to share this post on my blog, but my godawful SLOW tablet won’t let me, and I don’t have access to a computer right now. Ah, well.

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  8. YOU ROCK! Awesome post, I agree with everything that you’ve said. Animals deserve the same rights as we humans deserve! They are living beings and deserve everything that we humans enjoy, (and need), and often take for granted. If people think dogs and cats are spoiled, then what are we…. we human beings must “really, really” be spoiled!! It’s funny, odd, weird how people think our pets are spoiled when we take good care of them, as they should be! Thank you for writing this post!!!

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  9. My Mum sustaining my basic needs goes without saying. But it works both ways: I see to it that she gets her daily exercise, I comfort her, I talk to her.. She sometimes claims that I am spoilt, though. What she really means is that I have succeeded in training my Dad to share dog-friendly parts of his breakfast with me. The routine goes like this: I lie quietly at his feet under the table (well, sometimes I have to come out and tell him quite loudly that I am there, since he seems to have forgotten – then I go back to quiet position) – and he shares his meats with me. I call that being smart – not spoilt πŸ™‚

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    1. You sound like Lily πŸ™‚ I do love a dog with a bit of brains (and lots of character). Well done, people can be notoriously hard to train πŸ˜€

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