At some point, every dog owner gets frustrated with their dog. Maybe something minor, like them not coming when called, or something a bit more drastic, like tearing your favourite armchair to shreds when you’re not there.
What you do in these situations is often just between you and your four walls (and the dog). There’s a whole scale of frustration, from eye rolls all the way up to unreasonable physical reaction. Whatever your response is, does anyone ever see it? If a tree falls in a forest, did it fall if you didn’t see/hear it?
They do when you’re a “famous” youtube star, apparently. There’s a whole thing going viral today about Brooke Houts. A youtube vlogger with 300,000 ish subscribers who owns a Doberman and managed to film (and publish!) herself slapping and spitting on her dog, pushing it away. Out of frustration.
Sidestep what she actually did for a moment… here’s the thing. She videoed this, she published this. In my head, she wouldn’t have done that if she thought her actions were unreasonable. Or would she?
I’d never heard of her before her name went viral. But I certainly know about her now. What little we know about vlogging is that the more subscribers you have and the greater ‘hours watched’ your channel racks up, the more you earn. So, can we please bear in mind that this video she posted of unreasonable physical action against her pet is earning her money every time someone watches it to see for themselves what she actually did. Even if she takes that video down, you can bet people will be watching her other videos to see if there’s anything else in there they can find of her mistreating her dog.
Back on track, now. Have I ever beaten my dog because they did something I thought was wrong? No. Absolutely not.
Have I tapped their butt when they’ve acted out? Yes – instinctively, usually when I’m the target of whatever they’re doing and to turn their attention off shagging my arm. Have I shaken a can, squirted a water thingy, made a loud noise? Yes.
Our problem as humans is learning about expectations.
The more we anthropomorphise our pets, the higher our expectations of behaviour become. Because we’re treating them as “babies” we’re expecting them to act like children, not dogs. They’re dogs! Expect them to behave like dogs, not “yes, ma’am” preppy kids out at the Country Club for lunch. If you want a well-behaved dog, learn to communicate on their level, not yours. Go to classes, read the books, watch the training videos. Repeat.
Ultimately, the frustration we feel when our pets don’t do as we ask is no reason for any sort of punishment towards our pets. We should be chastising ourselves more – that we were expecting perfection perhaps but didn’t communicate it in a way we should be expecting our pets to respond to – at their level of understanding.
If you’re frustrated with your dog, Brooke – before you spit on him, you perhaps need to train yourself better. There are classes for Reactive Dogs out there, maybe there ought to be one for Reactive Humans?