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’).
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.
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.
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.