Monday, June 28, 2010

DOG WALKING- Good ownership or Cruelty?

I recently got into an argument over the issue of walking my dog. I have a "border-aussie", a Border collie-australian shepherd mix we bought from a shelter. I don't use the term "rescue" because I wasn't out to save any dog, I was saving money by getting an unwanted dog, instead of one with "papers".
Turns out, I got a great deal. My dog, now a year old, is incredibly smart. And very good with my kids. The idiots at the shelter thought she was blind (see "ghost eyes" and australian shepherds) and deaf. She may have hearing loss in one ear, but she responds to commands. She loves going outside and has killed one naughty rabbit so far. My only complaint about this dog in fact, is that she follows me around everywhere, chews/slobbers on me all the time and is otherwise a canine groupie. And I'm told I should be grateful for all that attention.
Anyways, I bought the dog because the wife and kids wanted a little pampered furball to play with. I wanted a dog to scare away all the varmints that keep coming onto my property from the former-farm and wooded area behind us (neighborhood in front of us, wild area behind us). We get coons and possums that root in the trash making a horrible mess on my carport. We get squirrels that chew holes in the plastic lids of the garbage cans. We get birds crapping everywhere. We get rabbits that killed my arbor day tree last year by gnawing the leaves off. We see deer and foxes prowling outside our backfence. And we get feral wild cats crapping in our flower beds.
Since the neighbor to my left had three dogs for ten years that barked nonstop, and the people across the street had multiple barking dogs, I didn't think there'd be any problem with getting a dog myself. But now, almost a year later, one of my neighbors doesn't like my dog barking.
The dog behavior websites offer up some strange ideas for quieting my dog. For one, they all insist she's bored. Funny how when I look outside, I see her barking at birds, squirrels or cats, and that she quits when they go away. Sounds "territorial" to me.
The dog sites further claim that I should "crate" my dog all day, so the neighbors don't have to hear her barking. Crating is where you lock your dog in a cage that's barely big enough for them to turn around in (it's small to make them feel safe). Kinda of like a doggy prison. Then you hire a dog walker to come over three times daily to let your dog out to stretch it's legs.
Can you imagine if people treated their children that way? I'm no animal rights nut- I firmly believe dogs are property and not sentient beings. But lock them in a little cage all day? That's crazy.
When I was a kid, dogs spent all day in the yard. They had dog houses and shade trees. They didn't have toys. They had sticks, and any occasional wildlife that wandered into range. Farm dogs had it even better, wandering around wherever they damn well pleased, and maybe coming home for dinner.
The dog websites also advocate dog walking. Again, I have to look to my childhood. Walking the dog was what you did when you lived in an apartment or didn't have a fenced-in backyard. You took your dog outside, maybe on a leash, so it could crap and stretch it's legs. If you had a yard, you let it do it's own thing when it wanted. When I proposed this theory on one site, pointing out that wolves and coyotes don't get taken for walks and seem to do just fine, I was told that they get to roam miles and miles.
Hey, my collie runs circles around the yard. She ain't sittin' in one spot all day long.
Again, I have to compare this to kids. Primarily because it always irritates me when animal nuts go on and on about rescuing dogs but never work to feed or clothe children. I don't walk my kids. Oh, sure, I take them to the store and make them walk. I take them to the zoo and walk them around or sometimes take them to a park. But I don't walk around the neighborhood like a busy-body, dragging my kids with me. They have a yard they can play in- with a swing even. Not to mention, they'd rather be inside watching Spongebob or playing video games. Or reading a book.
Is it cruel I don't take my kids for walks? Maybe if I did, they'd be too tired to misbehave. That's one theory behind dog-walking. A tired dog is a good dog.
How can people who think their dogs are more important than people treat them so poorly? Locking them in solitary confinement all day, then dragging them around on a leash in the evening? How is it not cruelty to wear a dog out so that it is incapable of playing? Not feeding them produces the same results, and it's considered cruel.
Moreover, I want someone to explain to me how "letting" my dog bark is rude to my neighbors. I have to listen to kids yelling and birds singing. How rude. I have to listen to loud music from my neighbors' guests. How rude. If only there was some ultrasonic device I could hang outside my house, disguised as a bird house or some other innocuous-looking object, that would emit painful auditory pulses when my neighbors or the birds were being rude. I mean, they make them like that for dogs, so why not people?
I guess to be a "good dog owner" I need to lock my dog in a hamster cage, all day long, then drag her by the throat around the neighborhood, keeping her muzzeled to prevent her noise-making, while bombarding her ears with an ultrasonic dog whistle. 
Yeah, that's humane.

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