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I love my dog. Inkling has challenged me and Clarissa since the day we brought her home, but we have done the best we could to provide her with a happy home, as well as to include her in every aspect of our lives. That means taking her everywhere with us that we can, training her to the best of our ability, and making sound decisions when it comes to her health and safety. Despite all this, sometimes I still have to stop and wonder, am I a bad dog owner?
Generally, I don’t think so. No one has ever rolled up a newspaper and smacked me on the nose saying, “Bad Wade! Bad dog owner!” Not even metaphorically. That is, until recently. At the end of October, I posted this picture and caption on Instagram:
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People have a lot of opinions about dogs. Myself included. But the truth is, dogs are individuals, and their relationships with people are unique. Some people are shocked when I tell them that Inkling sleeps in a kennel or stays on a leash when we're hiking. "My dog has the run of the house," they say. "I take the leash off the minute we hit the trail!" Hell, I've even had somebody tell me, "keeping your dog in a cage overnight is abuse!" But I know Inkling. She sleeps in a kennel because I understand she needs security. She stays on leash when we hike because I understand her limitations. Even when she tries my patience, I love my dog. Everything about our relationship revolves around positivity. Being on her leash or in her kennel isn't a punishment, they're not negative experiences. She's a good girl, and we do our best to give her a good life. Sometimes that means limits right now in exchange for greater freedom in the future. Sometimes it means milkbones. Again, it's all positive. She's a happy dog, we're a happy family. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #inklingsadventures #inkling #dog #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogsta gram #dogsta #puppiesofinstagram #pupsofinstagram #furbaby #dogtraining #hikingdog #hikingdogs #hikingwithdogs #hikingwithdog #hikingwithdoggo #dogtraining #onleash #rimrocktrail #spearfishcanyon #blackhills #blackhillsnationalforest #blackhillsbadlands #DiscoverDogs #adventuredog nation #adventuredog #discoverblackhills #traildog #traildogs
If you dive into that post (don’t feel obligated), you’ll see that I mention how individualistic every relationship with a dog really is. Dogs are, after all, individuals. Essentials aside, what my dog needs might not match up exactly with what your dog requires. Ain’t no thang.
In that post, I describe the things that Inkling needs. She needs the limits of a leash while hiking, because she gets distracted so easily and might rush headlong into a dangerous situation. She needs to sleep in a kennel, because she has not demonstrated that we can trust her overnight, and it provides both warmth and security. Sometimes she even needs me to admonish her to help her learn that she’s doing something inappropriate.
Yet some people can’t differentiate between a description and a prescription. To them, when I say that Inkling needs to be leashed on a trail, I’m calling them a bad dog owner because they don’t leash their dogs. When I say that Inkling’s kennel provides her warmth and security overnight, they believe that I’m saying they are bad dog owners if they don’t do the same. But a description and a prescription are two different things, and by sharing Inkling’s needs I’m not pointing fingers at anyone.
My friends responded positively to my Instagram post, assuring me that I’m not a bad dog owner. Strangers, however, enjoyed messaging me to tell me how wrong I am for saying that they’re bad dog owners and that I am not. Never mind that I did no such thing.
So I’ll do it now! I don’t think you’re a bad dog owner if you don’t kennel your dog. I don’t think you’re a bad dog owner just because you have your dog off leash on a trail or a path. On the other hand, if we’re on a path where leashes are required by law and a dog lunges at mine while the owner is still trailing by 100 feet, I do consider that an irresponsible dog owner. Not necessarily bad, but definitely irresponsible.
For the record, I’m friends with people whose dogs legitimately do not require leashes on the trail. They’re that well-trained; master’s voice is every bit as effective as a leash for those dogs. When I say Inkling needs a leash, I’m describing why my dog needs a leash, not prescribing that all dogs must have one.
Not every city, path, or trail requires leashes. That said, I see more dogs that need leashes than dogs that don’t. If you want to let your dog run wild and free, ask yourself, “is my dog under control without a leash?” Not friendly, or nice, but under control. Because that’s what matters when you’re in public.
In the world of dogs, no one is bad. It’s the human world where things get tricky. A dog must navigate human society, and can only succeed with the help of a good owner; the best dog can only be as good in human society as we empower them to be. Some need more help than others, but all need training, guidance, understanding, patience, and love. Most of all love.
I love my dog. She’s a good girl. So in the end, I’m probably not a bad dog owner. You probably aren’t either. But for all dog owners out there, we can all be sure of one thing…
People will always think you’re an incredibly bad dog owner if you don’t pick up your dog’s poop in public places. True story.
So yeah, pick up that poop. And love the hell out of your pet, no matter what kind of beast you’ve got!