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Judging Dogs By Impossible Standards

Time and time again, I hear people holding dogs up to standards they can't possibly be expected to reach.

Weak Dog? No, Weak-Brained Human

A random friend-of-a-friend was playing tug-o-war with my dog Jake, and suddenly announced, “He’s not that strong.”

I replied, “He’s a 6 kilo dog using his mouth to play tug-o-war with an eighty kilo man who’s using his arm. He's not weak. Jake's simply a small dog whose jaw is not as strong as a grown man's arm. I’m pretty sure that if you evened the playing field and used your mouth to play tug-o-war with Jake, you’d lose.”

As I'm sure you can tell from my reply, I found this man’s judgement of Jake’s strength just plain silly. The only thing he managed to demonstrate was not Jake's supposed lack of strength, but his own lack of ability to apply logic to the situation.

Stupid Dog? No, Stupid Person

Something I've heard quite a bit is this kind of comment: "My dog's stupid, because she doesn't always [insert a command] when I tell her to."

I know for a fact that, unless a dog has a neurological problem, she can be taught to do a basic act (eg. to sit or drop) on command. The only time that's not the case is when the dog hasn't been taught properly - and whose fault is that? (Clue: it's not the dog's fault.)

Another false accusation of stupidity I've often heard is: “My dog’s stupid, because when I throw a ball he chases it, but then when the ball stops moving he can’t find it.”

The fact is that a dog’s sight is better when it comes to moving objects. So when a ball stops it’s not always easy for a dog see it - especially when it comes to a green tennis ball sitting in green grass. Can you blame a dog for the way his eyes function? (Clue: no, you can't.)

When The Tables Turn

When I hear these silly assertions about dogs, I like to turn the tables as I did with the man who said Jake was weak.

First I explain to the person why what they're saying is untrue, and then I ask them whether they think they'd be able to do what a dog does. ("Can you play tug-o-war just using the strength of your jaw?" "Can you learn despite not being taught properly?" "Can you keep track of a tiny ball flying through the air and have the coordination to jump up and catch it?")

I turn the tables like this to point out that it's crazy to judge our abilities against those of dogs, because we'll never measure up. And, I add emphatically, it works vice versa: judging dogs by human-based standards is unfair, as dogs will invariably fail. 

We're Different To Each Other (Duh!)

Are you stupid because you can’t hear as well as your dog? No. You’re simply a human being with human ears.

Is a dog stupid because he can’t speak using language? No. He’s simply a dog with a dog’s vocal abilities.

Are you stupid because you're not able to locate hidden toys using your nose like your dog can? No. You’re simply a human being who has a human sense of smell.

Is a dog stupid because she can’t put on her own collar? No. She’s simply a dog who has paws instead of hands.

You get the picture.

Well, I hope that I’ve convinced you, and that if you’ve been guilty of judging dogs by human standards in the past, you'll refrain from doing so in the future.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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