Being a dog is the right of every dog, just as much as being a human is our right.
Yet often we see them forced into boxes that suit us, rather than given the freedom to practice their natural behaviour. How then, can we be sure that our dog is free to be the dog they are?
It’s really quite simple though little bits might seem inconvenient at first. For example, letting them roll in something smelly is a huge achievement for dog guardians. The idea of a stink in the car on the way home, followed by needing to bath a dog in the already busy day can leave us calling our friends away from the first sign of a smelly pile on a walk. Yet, it’s completely natural and such fun for dogs – and when we know that we rejoice for them, stink and all.
Feeding them something that resembles real food is another thing we can do for our dogs. Kibble and tinned foods are pretty sad foodstuffs. Kibble is likely the best of the two but it’s still something I can’t imagine eating for every meal, can you? So, giving them something to chew, something to seek and a problem to solve in order to find and eat a bit of real, enjoyable dog food is vital in helping them to practice natural behaviour and eat natural food too.
Teaching a recall for freedom on walks. It’s embarrassing for our species that we have taken this amazingly adaptable animal and put them on a rope attached to us. The dogs in our lives need to run, play, sniff and explore. They deserve to get into bushes, race into the distance and chase leaves to their heart’s content. They deserve to have friends of their own species and chase around with those friends. This can happen if we teach a good recall, and teaching a good recall is not too tough with most dogs. And if it’s tough for you – get help because your dog needs and deserves to run.
Sniffing is crucial mental stimulation. How often do you see someone pulling a dog along a road on the lead, not allowing a sniff? Can you imagine that if every time something caught your attention – most hours of most days of your life - you were physically dragged away from it? If that sounds hellish, or would make you feel disregarded – that’s exactly what it does to our dogs. It’s so amazing to see someone standing still waiting for their dog to finish their sniff, it makes me feel like applauding them. Sniffing is a basic canine right and all dogs have rights.
Freedom over their bodies. A dog who is continually touched without giving consent can become worried, jumpy and even snappy. It’s totally not their fault – it’s the fault of the person who keeps touching them. Just as people deserve autonomy over our bodies – so do our dogs. So, think before you touch and if you don’t really need to (or your dog isn’t asking you to) don’t touch at all.
These few points are the first that popped into my mind whilst writing this, yet there are so many more. The main thing to remember is this – all individuals have rights and should have regular opportunities to practice their natural behaviour. As dog guardians it’s our role to facilitate them.