We’ve all been there. That morning at the dog park or on a walk when someone says, “you know, you should really get another kind of leash”. “Your dog’s nails are too long”. “So who’s walking who?”. You should really learn how to control your dog”. “Why do you let your dog walk in front of you? Haven’t you ever taken him to obedience school?” “You know, it wouldn’t hurt if you let your dog off leash. What? He would run away? Oh, you must not have trained him early.” I could go on and on.
I’m not saying that I know everything there is about dogs, training or nutrition. But I am saying that if I don’t ask for your opinion, well, I probably don’t want it. Did I say that out loud?
My dogs have taught me many things, one of which is to go with the flow. When I first rescued them from the shelter, they were the first dogs I had ever “picked out”. So I made it my goal to learn how to take care of them the best way possible. I asked for people’s guidance when I took Brickle to the dog park for the first time and he was uncontrollable. They were kind, they offered me assistance, and as he grew up, we laughed later about how he had improved. Those exchanges were welcome, asked for, and positive. The guidance I received was out of a place of concern and love, not judgement. And judgement is what I take offense to.
You see, I have come to realize that there is no right and no wrong way to parent your dog. For things like nutrition, I certainly have my own strong opinions on dog food and health. However, unless someone asks me specifically for my opinion or experience, I would never tell them that they were wrong in the way they feed their dog. Why? First off, not everyone can afford the “best” food, or do they have access to fresh ingredients where they live. I never thought about this aspect until traveling the entire United States. There were areas where grocery stores were hours away, and even then, choices were limited. How was I to judge how people were able to feed their dogs? Do I believe that organic and fresh food will help our dogs to live longer? I do. But I also realize that for dogs to have a home…someone that loves them and takes care of their basic necessities…that is a lot more than what most dogs can ask for, or hope for. And I applaud the people that take care of their own in the best way that they individually can.
I often have people remark on how my dogs are “walking me”. And I do have a sense of humor. However I would never say this to someone because I don’t know what the dog has been through, or the physical or mental capabilities of the owner or the dog. If someone asked me if I wanted a suggestion on how I could walk them “better”, I might react a bit differently if given out of a place of concern. But what they don’t know is the Digby was a hunting dog, he ran away, and for Digby, being off leash is dangerous and means his life.
Oftentimes, I feel like dog parents are looking for ways to make other dog parents feel bad for the choices that they make so that they feel better about theirs. And when others cannot look past the one way that they feel is the best way to parent a dog, well, that is not loving, that is not kind. and totally not necessary. What is our ultimate concern as dog parents? Our dogs and having them with us as long as possible! We can’t judge others for the way we believe is the best way. Because their way IS the best way for their dogs if they are physically and emotionally taking care of their own.
We all are going through different things in our lives, we all were raised differently, and no one else has walked in our shoes. Well, my dogs have walked on them. They have chewed on them. But when we all realize that there is no one way to take good care of a dog, maybe we will simply thank other dog parents we see for taking care of their own. And maybe, if they ever need our help or guidance, we will be more likely to give and to receive.
-Rachael Johnson, Owner, Girl Person, 2 Traveling Dogs
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