Harrowed Hounds

This week’s Pet Peeve: dog ownership, it’s a privilege, not a right

By Brian Reynolds

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Photo credit: dionc/CC

Are you or someone you know thinking of adopting a dog? That’s awesome, having a dog is the greatest thing ever. Ever. It’s a lot of hard work and an immensely amazing experience at the same time. My dog Buster is my best friend. There are many great reasons to bring a dog into your life but a glaring red flag that someone shouldn’t own a dog is when they’re doing it to for a popularity boost. For some reason, some people believe that having a specific dog will give them the image they desire. Whether it’s a tiny cute dog poking out of a purse, a tough-looking dog to give you an edge, or a French Bulldog because every hipster has one, getting a dog to raise your status is just plain wrong.

The first thing we should clear up is that you and your dog are different and separate beings. Having a popular dog will not make you a popular person. (Luckily, having a dumb owner–me–will not make a dumb dog–Buster). If you’re a jerk and you buy a French Bulldog, you’re still a jerk, you just own a French Bulldog. Your status in the world will remain exactly the same, you just have a lot more responsibility. When I’m out with my dog, I’m fully aware that 100% of the real attention is geared towards Buster, not me. People will talk to me just to say hello to Buster and I don’t blame them. Instead of joining the crowd and getting a popular type of dog, keep your options open and I promise you’ll be just as happy.

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Another issue is the popularization of different breeds. Pop culture, films, commercials and television all have an impact. After watching the 1996 version of 101 Dalmatians, how could someone not want to own an adorable Dalmatian puppy? In September of 1997, the New York Times noted that the North Miami Beach Dalmatian Rescue had received 130 Dalmatians that year and said that it would normally take two and a half years to receive that many dogs. Was this because of a movie? It’s definitely part of the equation. If those dogs didn’t find a new home they likely found a fate similar to being owned by Cruella De Vil.

Dogs don’t appear out of thin air so higher demand can’t be met quickly. Backyard breeders, puppy mills, and bad breeders all pick up the extra slack. There is a small gene pool for purebred dogs so they can and do end up being inbred, which causes a litany of health issues. Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese and French Bulldogs all have short noses. We love them because it’s cute and they were bred to have them, but it also accounts for health problems such as overheating and shortness of breath. Could French bulldogs be heading down a similar path as the others? Maybe we can prevent that if people get dogs for the content of their character instead of their breed. Bringing a dog into your life is awesome, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and that you’re in it for the long haul.

Photo credit: br1dotcom/CC