Inkling and I hiking on Iron Creek Trail

Am I a Bad Dog Owner? Are You? Is Anyone a Good Dog Owner?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

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?

Wade holding dog wondering if hes a bad dog owner
Is this the face of a bad dog owner (or a bad dog)?

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:

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.

Inkling the dog in the snow
Every dog is unique. Mine is just weird.

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.

Inkling on my shoulder.
You can tell that she truly suffers from the occasional forceful, “NO!”

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.

Inkling and Wade wondering if I'm a bad dog owner
Here we contemplate whether I’m a bad dog owner and whether she’s a bad dog (no, on both cases).

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.

Inkling the dog with tennis ball
“Ball is life.”

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.

Wade and Inkling - Good dog owner, and good dog.
Good dog. Not too bad of a human either.

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!


4 thoughts on “Am I a Bad Dog Owner? Are You? Is Anyone a Good Dog Owner?

  1. Well said and I agree. While I WISH I could let my dog off the leash, when hiking, I flat out do not trust her to stay out of trouble. And when she prefers her crate to a comfy couch at night, I know we are doing the right thing by crating her overnight. To each their own, as long as they are doing what suits the dog and family. Inking is lucky to have you guys!

    1. I think that’s pretty much the right approach! Every dog is different, and what’s right for one doggo isn’t necessarily right for another. I think that’s what makes it difficult for some owners; some people want a one-size-fits-all approach, but unfortunately things just don’t work that way. I feel like we’re pretty lucky to have our little Inkling. She’s a good girl.

    1. Thank you!

      We’ve gotta spoil our pups, but we also have to ensure that they can make their way through our human society.

      It’s a challenge, but well worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *