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The Evolution Of The Dog Owner: For Better Or Worse?

As a child of the seventies, I was born and raised around dogs. We fed them, cleaned up after them, bathed them and took them to the vet. Never had it occurred to anyone in our large family to send our dogs to the spa for an herbal wrap. Our dogs slept on a pile of blankets on the floor, not in a custom made bed. We played catch in the backyard and doggy daycare was unheard of. They were dogs, happy, healthy, fur-only dogs (no fancy clothes here). I’ve worked in animal shelters, as an animal caregiver and a dog trainer, and it’s safe to say the landscape has changed dramatically since I resided with my first dog. Has it changed for the better?

Human Vs. Animal

Twenty some odd years ago, a dog was considered a family pet. Today 80% of dog owners consider the dog a member of the family. Society tends to humanize things they don’t understand. With this shift in thinking, non-traditional pet supplies such as vitamin supplements, premium health food, and high end décor are deemed necessary to keep a dog happy and well adjusted.  It’s the humanistic approach that is brought to dog ownership that has changed. Most dogs would still be happy with a pile of blankets on the floor.

shutterstock_152251670Training Methods

While it may seem as if dog enthusiasts are putting pressure on the humanization of the canine community, one of the good things to have evolved over the years is training methods. Books and articles from the seventies and eighties indicate a more barbaric approach to canine training. Positive reinforcement hadn’t quite caught on; instead owners were encouraged to show their superiority through brute force and tough love. Thankfully, negative reinforcement tactics aren’t as welcome, as research has shown time and again, a positive based training session yields better results than a negative one.

Big or Little?

Way back when, pocket dogs were unheard of and the “delicate” smaller breeds were best suited for the fancy folks. Families wanted dogs to play with, run with, and wrestle with–Man’s best friend. Back in the seventies who ever heard of a manly man holding a Pekingese? Today, smaller breeds are preferred to larger ones. They are easier for the elderly to manage, and are a better fit for young urbanites that live in apartments. Smaller breeds no longer hold the aura of daintiness and are proudly shown off by the manliest of men.

Go Adopt!

There wasn’t really a term for ‘backyard breeder’ when I was growing up. Occasionally, two neighborhood dogs “hooked up” and the puppies would be given away or given to a local pet shop to sell. Puppy mills were something that was done on such quiet terms that no one really gave it a second thought as to where the cute puppies in the window came from.  Dog Pounds were thought of as scary, death traps no dog ever survived. Today, there is a huge surge in adopting from a local shelter, rescue or even the pound. The staff is usually friendly, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile to make sure their dogs find the right homes.

While there have been some pitfalls to the evolution from owner to pack leader; there have been more positive changes over the past few decades that have shaped our society for the better. With more research, education and information, we are on our way to being the best humans any dog could ever hope for.

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Written by Renee Moen
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