In the Good Old Days by Pamela Dennison © 2004
May not be reprinted without written approval.
Why was it so much easier (or so we think) to train dogs in the “good old days?” Why was the dog we grew up with, the “best dog in the world” and the new dog we have now, the complete opposite?
I have been thinking about this for quite some time now. In the good old days, we used to let our dogs out of the back door in the morning and they would just show up again at some point during the day. In the good old days, you knew what dogs to stay away from and if you got bit, you were blamed, not the dog. In the good old days, your mom stayed at home or if she worked, it was only part time. In the good old days, families spent more time together in the evenings and on weekends. In the good old days, all of the neighbor kids played on the street or in their yards and after school activities were rare. Our dogs were always part of that play. My dog Lady used to play outfield, but the only problem was that she would only bring the ball back to me.
In the good old days, we didn’t expect all that much from our dogs and just taught the usual sit and down and shake paw, with maybe a cute roll over to impress our friends. In the good old days, our dogs were a part of the family, and no one got a dog unless they were committed to caring for it for life. In the good old days, we didn’t use our dogs to fulfill human needs that weren’t being met.
In the new days, moms work full time, kids are too busy with a zillion after school activities and the dog is often relegated to the backyard, basement or crate. In the new days, there are more pet shops, bad breeders and more needy people that get dogs for the wrong reasons. In the new days, people have less patience and time, and the world is a bit scarier. In the new days, because we have less time and more stress, we have turned to using harsher training methods, and have created a whole host of behavioral problems for our dogs. In the new days, our society is very quick to sue anyone over the slightest infraction or mistake. In the new days, the “American dream” that includes the house, 2-1/2 kids and a dog, is still in place. However, no one has time anymore for the kids and the dog. In the new days, if a behavior problem arises, a quick trip to the shelter solves the trouble. Then one can just stop at the local mall pet shop on the way home and pick up the next family pet—and the cycle continues.
In the new days, everything is “throwaway”- from cars, houses, furniture, and clothes to animals and heaven forbid if the dog doesn’t match the new furniture or carpet! In the new days, people take more time and do more research to pick out their next car or agonize over a new lamp purchase, than they do to find the right dog for themselves and their family or even if owning a dog at all is right for them. They want a dog NOW!!
Comments I hear almost daily include:
“I want a dog that can be left alone for 16 hours every day and be perfectly housetrained from day one.”
“We didn’t think they got that big.” (this about a Great Dane)
“My dog is biting the family and we hit him and he is biting harder.”
“My Border collie wants to chase things.”
“My terrier runs around like a nut and digs holes.”
“We don’t have much time with work and family and our dog is stealing things off counters and tearing up things.”
“My dog sheds too much.”
“My Sheltie barks incessantly”
“My dog is 3 months old and he still has accidents in the house.”
“My Malamute pulls on leash.”
And last but not least, my personal favorite:
“My last dog didn’t (fill in the blank with your choice of urinate in the house, bark, bite, chew, dig, run away).”
Our dogs give us loyalty, companionship and a warm body to snuggle with. They work with and for us and don’t ask all that much in return. It has been observed that the presence of dogs in a hospital or nursing home creates a better environment and healing for the patients. Our dogs help keep us sane, just by being there. Owning a dog can render us more human and more humane. All they need is good quality balanced diet, some basic training so they know the rules, plenty of physical and mental exercise, a nice warm bed and a good belly rub at the end of a long day.
I don’t have the answers to the current problems—if I did, I’d be rich. However, we can lead by example in this new world. The way we treat our dogs is an indication of how we will treat our fellow man. Take it upon yourself to teach our new generation to show compassion, commitment and responsibility. Let’s do that by caring for and nurturing humankinds best friend and best teacher of life’s lessons—our dogs.