Breaking The ‘Naughty Dog’ Taboo

An article in ‘The Daily Mail’ made me ponder something:

‘I tried to force a smile so as not to cause offence, but the truth is that I don’t like dogs. I never have and I never will.

Everything about them makes my stomach turn — the way they smell (like mouldy socks), the way they foul (any where they like; my street seems to be their favourite place), the way they moult (is there anything more repellent than a dog hair-strewn sofa?) and, most of all, the way they make a beeline for me whenever I’m in their midst.

‘It’s because he knows you’re scared of him,’ my friend Anna laughed the other week, as her exuberant Cocker spaniel wrenched my handbag from my grasp. Well, excuse me for not seeing the funny side.

I am well aware that by writing this I am breaking a taboo. We are a nation of dog lovers and to admit to being anything but is akin to suggesting I want to sell my grandmother into slavery.’

It’s easy to list the things I disagree with in this article. For starters, in this free country of ours everyone is allowed to live out their dreams in the way they wish. If dogs are not part of yours – feel free to keep it that way and don’t bother rubbing your dislikes into the faces of the rest of us.

But (and I am going out on the limb here) the article did touch on what I believe to be a genuine social problem. That is, the way dogs are being permitted (by their owners and society in general) to act anti-socially towards others.

How many times have you heard ‘Oh, he is just being naughty.’ said about a dog who growls at strangers, puts his muddy paws on laps, mouths hands and handbags. Dogs are never ‘naughty’. They simply act out the behaviours they are permitted to engage in by their owner. As a community we should raise our understanding and expectation of dog behaviour in public places and with strangers. If we do, the whole community will be better for it.

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

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