Guilt And Dog Ownership – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
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Dog owners can experience profound guilt as a result of the abuse, neglect, and mistakes they did regarding their dogs. People have those dark places that they’d rather not talk about, and one of those can be about how they treated their dog or someone else’s dog. Here are some examples:

Rough Training: I spoke to a woman a few years back that hired a dog trainer for her 4 month old pit bull puppy. The guy came to her home, and then proceeded to roughly train this puppy to the point that the puppy was hiding and cowering in a corner, peeing all over itself. She told the guy to leave and not come back. But, then she said she didn’t understand why she allowed this man to abuse her dog for 2 solid hours, right in front of her. She felt profoundly guilty. Be sure to hire a good dog trainer. And never hire a dog trainer out of anger (you’ll pick a trainer that will abuse your dog for money), or implement any kind of training out of anger.

Neglect: I know of an elderly dog that had kidney failure. The dog could no longer be clean in the home, and would urinate everywhere. So, instead of putting the dog down, this small, fluffy dog, was forced to live outside. There was no shelter for the dog, even from the rain. The dog lived out there for over 2 years. Eventually, one spouse took the dog to the vet had had her put down. It was cruel to abandon this dog to the outdoors like this. This dog wasn’t my dog, or even a student’s dog. I was only a teenager at the time. But even then, I knew it was wrong, and I wonder today why I didn’t say anything. I feel guilty about that even today.

Public Pressure: I recently read of a man who was being hassled by his homeowner’s association regarding his dog. The apartment complex banned dog ownership, but since his dog was there before the ban, his dog was “grandfathered” in, meaning he could keep his dog. His dog had started showing aggressive tendencies, but apparently he didn’t hire a dog trainer to help him out. These dog hater who ran the complex kept hassling him about his dog. So, instead of fixing the situation or moving, he took his dog to the veterinarian and had his dog put to death. Shortly afterward, he realized what a horrible thing he had done… the guilt was overwhelming… so he committed suicide.

Sick Dog: I heard of a lady who had a sick, elderly Golden Retriever. The dog had cancer. So, instead of ending this dog’s suffering, she left the dog outside to suffer. Occasionally, the dog would escape. One day, the dog turned up at a neighbor’s home down the block. They didn’t know who the dog belonged to. They looked around for “Lost Dog” signs, asked their immediate neighbors, and examined the dog for identification. So, they took this sick, filthy dog inside, fed him and gave him a bath. After a couple of days, they took the dog to the veterinarian for an examination, only to find out the dog was dying. With no indication of who owned the dog, and with the veterinarian’s recommendation that the dog be put down to end its suffering, they paid the vet with their own money to do just that. Several weeks later, the owner of the dog came by their place, asking if they had seen a Golden Retriever. They said they had, and told her that the dog was sick, with no identification, and so they had the dog put down. This woman then proceeded to tell them that she had hoped the dog would run away and die somewhere so that her kids wouldn’t have to deal with seeing the dog die at home! No guilt. No remorse. More concerned about how her kids would feel if they found the dead dog in the back yard or in the nearby park playground, than how the dog had been suffering with no medical treatment, in filthy conditions, and then terrified after escaping the yard and no one coming to find him.

Aggression: There are so many stories of dogs mauling kids. These stories almost always boil down to two causes: the dogs weren’t properly managed (trained, socialized, housed, given medical care, supervised); and the kids weren’t taught basic dog safety (no teasing; leaving dogs alone when eating; not hurting the dog; not petting strange dogs; etc.). I can’t imagine the guilt of a parent knowing that they could have prevented their kid from being hurt. They’ll always blame the dog, but they know inside it was their fault.

Lost Dog: I can tell you story after story of dogs that got lost. Dogs that escaped back yards because the pool guy left the door open (I wouldn’t want to be a pool guy with that on my conscience); dogs that escaped because of fireworks; dogs that escaped because of untreated separation anxiety; dogs that escaped because the dog got loose from the owner and the dog wasn’t obedience trained and wouldn’t come back; dogs that were snatched from back yards by predators; dogs lost on vacations; etc. The guilt, knowing you could have prevented these tragedies, can be overwhelming. I know of a dog that was lost in Northern Arizona because the owner was a cheapskate and decided to do her own dog training instead of hiring a professional. Fortunately, she found the dog after nearly a week of searching miles and miles of territory. She was lucky. A lucky dingbat. That dog had greater odds of dying than being found like it was.

Believe me, you can feel great remorse, harsh and recurring memories from animal abuse and neglect. Those memories can come back and haunt you, again and again, for the rest of your life. So, consider this: do the right thing. Get expert help. Listen to your conscience. Love your dog.

If you have these overwhelming feelings of guilt, then it might be worth talking to someone about it. And swear to any dog you have now that you’ll never neglect or abuse them.