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"My Dog Is Stupid!"

There are few things I hate more than when I hear people say that their dog is stupid.

Dogs are born with certain instincts but, beyond that, they only know we teach them. Like humans, dogs are not born knowing everything, and to assume that they’re stupid simply because they don’t know something…well, that’s just stupid.

Stupid Dog? No, Stupid Person

When a person tells me that their dog is stupid, I feel that it says more about the person than their dog.

The first thing it tells me is that the person doesn't have much respect for their dog. This, to me, is a pitiful state of affairs: the poor dog who loves unconditionally and with all his heart, adores someone who has no respect for him. Very sad indeed.

The second thing it tells me is that the person is ignorant as to how dogs learn. A dog learns about dog-to-dog behaviour from his mother, littermates, and other dogs. The rest is up to us. So when a dog doesn’t know something a person has tried to teach him, that only reflects that person’s defects as a teacher - not a lack of intelligence on the part of the dog.

No Bad Students

There’s a saying: there are no bad students, only bad teachers. Remember that saying when you’re teaching your dog.

Like us, a dog needs to be taught in order to learn. So if your dog doesn’t know something you’ve tried to teach him, your dog is not stupid: you've been a bad teacher.

I must add here that, as someone who teaches children and adults for a living, I've found dogs to be far better students than humans. Dogs are generally more amenable to learning and open to being taught than most people are (especially some adults). So with dogs being such willing students, it really is our failing as teachers when they don’t learn.

Be Realistic

A person once told me that her dog was stupid because he snapped at an insect. She said, “I was trying to teach my dog about life, so I showed him this insect and said to him, ‘This is an insect’. But then he just snapped at the insect! How stupid is that?”

Not stupid at all, actually. What is stupid is that this woman thought she could explain to her dog what an insect was by saying 'This is an insect'! While dogs can certainly be taught what various words mean (eg. they can learn that the word “sit” means they must put their bottom on the ground), they don’t really understand language as such. 

My point? That we should be realistic about what dogs can and can’t do, and logical about what we expect our dogs to learn.

The Sound Of Your Voice Is Music To Your Dog's Ears

I want you to know that I’m at all not suggesting that we not chat to our dogs simply because they don’t understand every word we say.

Speaking to our dogs is a show of affection, so although they don’t understand the conversation, dogs do seem to enjoy it when we chit chat to them. Think of it in terms of human babies who’ve yet to understand language: parents talk to their babies all the time, even though the baby has no clue what the parent is actually saying. It’s simply part of bonding with the baby. Consider talking to your dog as serving that same purpose.

To Sum Up

Maintain realistic expectations of what your dog can learn, and be logical about what you want him to learn (so, no lectures about insects). And, most important, don’t ever blame your dog for not knowing something: simply endeavour to become a better teacher.

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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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