All over the internet and social media sites, people are posting images of their fur-babies and fur-kids…and just what, you may ask, is wrong with that? At the risk of being seen as a grumpy old man, I think that there may just be a lot wrong with that.

I don’t really know when the change occurred from people ‘keeping’ dogs to having fur-babies, but I’m pretty sure that it is all a part of the bleaker picture of the decline in our society’s ability to care appropriately for our dogs.

No longer are we owners, or leaders, apparently we are parents – parents to hairy, four-legged beings of a species quite different to our own.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that dogs should not be treated as members of our families; they absolutely should be! They should be included in as many areas of our lives as possible. I applaud the way that dogs have moved in from the kennel outdoors and now share our homes proudly sporting a plethora of designer collars, chillaxing on deluxe beds and playing with toys of all concoction and above all, engaging with ‘us’ on a whole new level.

In the UK we spend a fortune on dog care, grooming, nutrition, veterinary fees, insurance, equipment and all manner of associated costs. As dog owners (I choose that terminology over puppy-parents!), who make a choice to have dogs sharing our lives and our homes, then so we should expect to spend on what they need to maintain their well-being.

I’m a Facebook user, as most of us are – I hate it – I don’t want to spend hours looking at the most boring intricacies of peoples lives, but I cant help it; before I know it, ‘FB’ is open on my PC and I am staring at pictures of people who I barely know on their most recent holiday, trip to the dentist, or visit to their local Italian Restaurant. However, what I am also presented with frequently, are the images of dogs and babies or dogs and children.

I don’t know if this is a new phenomenon, or whether Facebook is simply the platform to show it. I suspect both. An array of images of German Shepherds acting as cushions for babies, Bull Breeds acting as walking aids for toddlers, dogs and children laying on each other whilst on the sofa watching a film. Hundreds of ‘likes’ and hundreds of uneducated comments on the steadiness of the breed within the picture.

For those who work with dogs, it just makes us cringe.

Until a few years ago, the UK was fairly clear of fatal dog attacks on people. A dog, killing someone? We had never heard of such a thing other than from our relatives across the pond in the USA. Sadly, of recent times, in the UK we have had numerous fatal dog attacks and now, again, more than twenty years after the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) was brought in, we are again about to see the law curtail some more freedom from dog owners and quite unfairly so.

Is this because a few hundred people posted pictures of their dogs in inappropriate situations with their children, is it because we call dogs, Fur-babies? Of course not. But these factors simply demonstrate that we have quite simply, lost the plot in regard to dogs, their needs and most critically a common sense way of living with dogs. We have, sadly, forgotten that they are quite wonderful, beautiful and most unique. We have lost the ability to relate to another species, to know that they need treating like dogs – that is not an undermining term – dogs need to be treated like dogs – that is the very best we can do for them. To acknowledge, understand and treat them as the beings that they are. They quite simply are predators, derived from a wolf. They are. Science and observation tells us so. Yes, they are adapted, yes, they have floppy ears, wide eyes, cute little jackets, diamanté collars, but the outfit does not alter the animal within. It matters not what breed you own, from the tiniest Chihuahua, to the largest Tibetan Mastiff; dogs are dogs – whilst breeds and individuals are different; they remain dogs of the same genetic heritage.

They have, hard-wired in to them the ability to be a dog – the ability to hunt, to guard, to herd, to kill. They are masters of observing body language, to spot weakness and to work as a team, a pack, a family. They are dogs.

By default, they do not share our values, our beliefs or our morals. They simply don’t – they are dogs…not furry babies with four legs! Should we be angry that our ‘kids’ let us down, that they pee on the carpet, that they do not welcome the guests we want them to welcome? That they roll in poo? That they wee up Aunty Flo’s plant pots? No, we need to know that they are dogs.They have reasons for each and every action…just because you do not know what it is, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one and a large majority of those, they need to be free to express to be fulfilled.

However, we do live in a rather self-serving society. The L’Oreal culture – because I’m worth it. I want a dog, because I want one. I want a Cockerpoo, a puggle, a Chug, a Jug…’cos I can and they are bang-on-trend. Do I still want to live in my penthouse apartment? Do I still want drinks after work each and every night, yes…but that’s fine, Doggy Day-care will have the dog. We mess them up.

We cause problems because, it is all about us – not all about them. They have to fit in to our lives, without us making any effort to understand theirs. Being the less intelligent species, it is credit to them that we all rub along so well generally – not us in most cases.

A new trend in the gradual effort to make dogs into children are the baby carriers, the slings and backpacks for owners.

Whilst some may coo over the images of dogs on their ‘parents’ backs, I reel with horror. Dog have legs…and should use them. The dogs natural movement and position is quite is quite different to a person, most frequently the backpack is digging into the dogs neck and causing ‘pigeoning’ forward of the dogs head to allow for the change in body position. The forelegs are often hooked up causing massive compression of the elbow joint, hyper-extension of the tricep and over contraction of the bicep. The organs will be feeling the effect of gravity – a dogs organs rest down on the abdominal wall horizontally, in this position gravity will be pushing the organs down towards the pelvis and blood flow to those organs will be compromised – they are not designed to be in this position so the ‘tubing’ will be squashed. Moreover, the legs are hanging loosely in its pelvis, something a dogs should never do, gravity will be working on them and hip dysplasia may be the result, as the ball and socket will be under stress. There will also be a huge impact on the bladder, bowel and anal glands.

Dogs have survived for centuries, just fine without wearing clothes, being carted around in some kind of case, being imposed on by people who believe that they should always behave like fluffy little people in polite society. I would like to see a return to us treating dogs like dogs. They deserve nothing less. Make provisions for the dog to be allowed to be a dog – to roll in the mud, to eat manure – that is what makes them dogs, not people. Take time to understand dogs, to learn about what motivates them – spend time with them teaching a system of communications and as importantly, learn how to stay safe around them by realising that within each dog, there still lies a predator.

Ross McCarthy

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