This post has been brought to you by the behavior of a very large dog at the post office today.
Dear Dog Owners of America:
Please train your dogs.
To those of you who actually do, I say, thank you! I appreciate your effort, and your dogs are probably lovely creatures. Unfortunately, you are in the minority, and the other dog-owners and their pets are making you look bad.
It used to be that whenever the Great Pet Debate came up — dogs vs. cats — I found myself wondering, why don’t I like dogs more? After all, the qualities ascribed to them sound great. I liked Platonic Dogs very well, but Actual Dogs much less, and I didn’t know why.
Then I realized that was because the majority of the Actual Dogs I meet are badly behaved.
They bark. They bite. They chew on stuff. They jump on anything and anyone they can get near. No, their “enthusiasm” is not adorable. In small dogs, it’s annoying; in large dogs, it can be outright dangerous. You know what’s adorable? A dog who knows how to express his enthusiasm in a socially acceptable fashion. Which is to say, a dog who is trained.
And no, a dog who brings the ball back when you’re playing fetch and sits (sometimes) on command is not “trained.” If you have to drag your dog down off the counter of the post office, your dog is badly trained and badly behaved. If he barks for a minute straight every time the doorbell rings, he is badly trained and badly behaved. If you have to bribe him with treats to get peace and quiet during dinner, he is badly trained and badly behaved. If he draws blood through my clothing because he tried to jump on me and his claws went raking down my thigh, he is badly trained and badly behaved.
A well-trained dog is one who knows how to behave like a civilized member of society.
I have met far too few of them in my life.
So please. For the love of god. Train your dog. Teach him when it is and is not okay to bark. Teach him to show enthusiasm with tail-wagging and jumping in place, not on people. Do not reward his bad behavior by giving him commands and then, when he ignores them, rewarding him with whatever it was he wanted. You owe it to your dog to be consistent, to give him a framework within which he can operate and be happy. And the rest of us would appreciate it very much.
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