A Dog's Eye View: Defining a spoiled dog

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Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

Recently while visiting a downtown business, I was accompanied by my rat terrier, Skippy. A lady came in the door and noticed my dog. My dog raised her head and sniffed the air to identify this human. She then put her head back between her paws and continued resting on her mat. The lady then sat down next to me and said, “Now that’s a spoiled dog.” After my momentary shock, the first words to leave my lips were, “No, this is a trained dog. A spoiled dog is obnoxious and would be climbing up your leg right now.”

Did I sound a little defensive? You bet! There was my dog, minding her own business, lying quietly on her mat. My dog is welcome in many public places because she is well trained and quiet. Is my dog pampered? No more than any other loved and treasured member of my family or my friends. The years of training and commitment I have in the relationship with this dog are paying the dividends I receive now because of that work and commitment. She goes just about everywhere I go. She waits quietly in the car for me while I travel to work with clients.

She also reminds me to take my mid-morning coffee break if I happen to be working at my desk. Then we play fetch for several minutes and end with a chewy bone. Is that spoiled? Or is that understanding the special needs of this wonderful companion animal? That morning break exercises her physically and mentally. And it reminds me to take a break and give my brain a rest, too.

As I pondered what might make this lady think my dog is spoiled I came upon another possible reason. She wears a fleece dog coat. Skippy, like so many other short-haired dogs, really suffers in the cold of winter. So she needs the additional insulation a coat provides. Would that make her spoiled? Only if her closet is larger than mine! And I have a warm kennel crate and several blankets in my car to make sure she stays warm while left alone. Is that spoiled? Or is it being a responsible pet owner?

Encarta dictionary defines spoiled as “willful or selfish because of having been overindulged.” My “Wagapedia” definition of a spoiled dog is this: A spoiled dog knows no rules. He or she is pushy and demanding and exhibits rude behavior. This dog barks at you to get what he wants and usually gets it. Claiming space that doesn’t belong to him is the hallmark of a spoiled, unruly dog. Constantly pushing and nudging for attention and getting it, is a spoiled dog. A dog left to roam about the neighborhood unsupervised is a spoiled dog. A dog living in a household with no rules is a spoiled dog.

We domesticated dogs and brought them into our lives and homes. We have a responsibility to see to their needs, to understand their language and to keep them safe. We also have a responsibility to educate them as to how to live in our human world. I would like to thank that lady for prompting this important message.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.

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