I got slapped in the face at a recent conference for pet bloggers. Not literally slapped in the face, of course, but figuatively. I’m a dog trainer. I love dogs precisely because they are dogs. I love them because they are canine. My dogs are my dogs — not my four-legged kids, not my furkids. I appreciate my dogs for their dogginess.
At this conference, pets were allowed. I saw ferrets in harness, I saw cats in strollers, and I saw lots of painted dogs. Dogs in dresses. Dogs in hats. Dogs made to look like lions. I saw a cat dressed as a cowboy. I kid you not.
The only thing I had in common with some of my fellow attendees was blogging. And that was kinda depressing.
I saw several ill-mannered dogs. Dogs that didn’t really like being at a conference. I saw dogs being pushed in strollers, being shushed when they barked at the cats, dogs, bunnies, and ferrets.
I also saw some really happy dogs. Dogs that didn’t know they looked like a lion. Dogs that didn’t know their coat was dyed to look like a rainbow. And I’m cool with that: the dog was happy, the human was happy. That’s what I live for.
The thing I didn’t quite understand was why people would let their ferret greet unknown dogs. Schooner stumbled into a stroller (yes, really) of ferrets. When I realized what he was sniffing, I called him quietly away, and rewarded him for coming away.
The ferret-lady said to me “Oh, he’s fine with the ferrets!” He meaning Schooner. I wasn’t quite sure how she knew that — heck, I wasn’t so sure of it myself, and I’ve lived with this dog for several months.
I politely declined to let him meet the three ferrets which led to a very disappointed ferret-lady.
I couldn’t understand why a dog owner would give their dog the chance to “play” with a ferret when he might actually kill the ferret.
From a dog trainer perspective, my question is: why set your dog up to fail? Yes, a dog cut to look like a lion is ridiculously cute. But when my dog saw this creature, he did a triple-take. He was so curious about what type of beast was in the hotel lobby, he couldn’t make sense of it. That lion-dog was the center of attention — from both people and dogs. And all of that attention wasn’t necessarily good attention.
Dressing your dog up or grooming your dog to look like another creature is fun. But before you do it, take the dog’s well being into consideration. If there aren’t any other dogs around and the dressed up dog is happy: go for it! If you’re setting your dog up for unwanted (by the dog) attention: quit it!
Dogs aren’t our little dolls. Using them for our entertainment and not thinking about what the dog is going through is unnecessary.
I got some good blogging ideas between my subconscious nervous tics due to all the animal craziness by which I was surrounded. So it wasn’t a total loss…
Jodi, Kolchak & FeliX says
It was such a pleasure to meet you this weekend. I know I spent a whole lot of time cringing at all the dogs who were visibly showing signs of extreme stress, so I can’t imagine how you, Debbie and other trainers felt.
I’m not sure I could ever bring Kolchak to BlogPaws. Sometimes *I* find the conference floor incredibly overwhelming and I can’t imagine what Kol would do being only “knee high to a pig’s eye” and feeding off my stress as well…It’s probably better left untested (and then at least we know the ferrets, bunnies and cats will be safe. He is a beagle after all!)
Laurie Luck says
I’m so glad we got a chance to meet! It was great talking with you! I was a little nervous writing this post because I don’t want to make anyone mad — I just want people to think about their dog *before* they do something like dress him up, paint his fur, or groom him to look “un-doggy.” I live for the dogs — it all comes back to “Are the dogs happy?”
Looking forward to following your blog and learning more about Kolchak and FeliX! I grew up with beagles and just love ’em to pieces!
Aw man, you were at BlowPaws too? Geeze, I really do need to go one of these years!
I’m with Jodi, where I’m not sure a conference like that is the place for Elka (and, like Jodi, I’m happy to be able to make that kind of grown up decision for my dog).
I look forward to reading more of your thoughts!
Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart says
I understand. The last one I attended featured a “service dog” — reactive, wearing a prong collar and getting jerked for every little thing — and his handler who was a CM devotee. When he sat at our dinner table, all my friends from the Never Shock a Puppy campaign, were like, “YOU sit next to him!” I did my best to have a civil conversation, and at one point, he made quite clear he knew who I was and what I believed about dog training. It was interesting, to say the least.
There weren’t quite that many dressed up pets the last time I went, but I had the same fears / reaction to the dogs + ferret thing (and blogged about it). I would be terrified that my dog would cause a ferret massacre.
Of course, because I know my dog, she stayed HOME.
Years ago, I did a big pet expo representing an online pet business i worked for and had taken my ferrets. I had someone with St. Bernard who thought I should let his dog see my ferrets up close. I don’t even allow my dogs to interact with my own ferrets, I wasn’t trusting his. The owner wasn’t happy. I didn’t care. Later on at the same event, a ferret that was in pouch was bit by a dog while they were walking around.
My dog has done a double take when seeing a dog with a strange appearance. But in this case it had nothing to do with clothing or dye jobs. It had to do with breed. He had never seen a shar pei and didn’t know what to make of it.
I’ve decided I probably will attend pet free in the future. 3 dayd is long time and Ric had enough by the 3rd day. It’s a lot of work making sure you’re dog is happy and comfortable while trying to pay attention to the session.
Maybe for next year, you can write a guest post for BlogPaws on how to ensure your pet has a safe, happy time.
Pup fan says
Amen, sister. I totally agree with your thoughts here. As you know, the conference couldn’t have been much closer to where I live unless I hosted it in my house – and I still didn’t bring either of my dogs. There were times when I had a twinge of regret that no one could meet them, but I know my dogs. It works fine for some dogs, but it wouldn’t have been a good situation for either of mine. And I’m okay with that. It’s important to know your dogs and their limits.
And I agree about the ferrets too – I just kept imagining how Tavish would go absolutely bonkers when presented with the opportunity to chase a ferret, and was relieved that there were not disastrous incidents.
On a happier note, it was awesome to see you again. Let’s make sure we do it again before 2 years pass next time. 🙂
Laurie Luck says
I go when it’s close. It was relatively close (about an hour’s drive), so I attended. I generally don’t go when I have to fly…
Laurie Luck says
Ugh, it’s tough, isn’t it? I have only two dogs who were able to attend. Our other two dogs either wouldn’t enjoy it or would cause a commotion. They stayed home — and were happier, I think! 🙂
Laurie Luck says
Yay for a smart ferret owner! Thank goodness. I wish YOU were there! 🙂
Laurie Luck says
Loved it! Maybe next year you CAN have it in your house. We could kill two birds with one stone. 😉 See you soon!
Wow that sounds intense! I’ve never been a fan of dressing up dogs, or referring to them as babies etc. I agree with you, I got a dog because I wanted canine companionship and I love my dog (Boomer) because he’s a dog.
I’m looking forward to reading the ideas you got from the conference 🙂
It was sooo great to meet you at the conference, Laurie. I can understand your concern about writing this post but at least you’re a trainer and have years of experience on your side to support it. I am planning to write a post noting my similar discomfort and am rather anxious about it. But it has to be said. I could write a book here in support of your post but will do a link-back when I get my post written instead.
Well said Laurie …
It’s such a shame that there aren’t more trainers, vets and bloggers taking this view instead of promoting the “pet parents” line of thinking.
Comparing dogs to children isn’t just ignorant, it’s a dreadful insult to dogs; and that’s a fact.
Unfortunately, “pet parents” has taken off as the new thing in pet products marketing. Well, we’ve abused and insulted dogs throughout history – why would we stop now?
Shaye Walsh says
Hey, I can’t seem to find an email address. Can you email me back to ask you a question?