What is a good home for a dog or a cat?
I believe my pets have a good home.
Ace, Beamer and Scout get daily attention from me. They all eat grain-free, natural food. They go to the vet when they are sick. They are neutered. I never leave them home for more than eight hours, usually no more than two or three.
Ace sleeps in my bedroom most nights. When we leave town for more than a week, the whole crew stays at my parents’ house so they don’t have to go to a kennel. Ace goes for walks and to training classes. He gets to meet other dogs. I’ve even set up kitty playdates for my cats.
But how do I define a good home?
I know very well there are people out there who believe I am not providing a good home for my pets.
On a walk last fall a woman approached me and (without asking and without introducing herself) reached for Ace in an attempt to loosen the choke collar around his neck.
“I would never put one of those on my dogs,” she said.
I looked down at her rat terriers pulling against their little harnesses.
“You don’t have a 65-pound dog,” I said.
Still, we were able to keep it friendly and agree to disagree. We even let our dogs run and play off leash at the park we were at.
Many dog owners would consider me irresponsible for allowing my dog off leash in an unfenced park. They might say I shouldn’t have a dog.
Ace gets to run and play off leash in an unfenced area almost every day. I see that as a good thing.
No two dog owners are ever going to agree on the ideal way to treat a dog. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other.
I require my dog to yield to me in doorways. I make him sit and stay before he gets fed. I yell at him. I don’t allow him on the furniture. I use a prong collar and a shock collar.
Some dog owners can’t imagine something as “cruel” as a shock collar (also called an e-collar). My parents have an electronic dog fence, and because of the shock collar Ace wears when we visit, he gets full freedom on their property. Again, I see that as a good thing.
All of the above are just a few examples why someone might believe I am not providing my dog with a “good” home.
I’ve learned to look at dog ownership differently.
Just because someone does not treat a dog the way I treat a dog does not mean that person is a bad dog owner.
All the dogs I know are happy and spoiled and loved, even if their owners treat them differently than I would treat a dog.
Through my pet sitting business in Fargo, I’ve basically seen it all. Thankfully, I haven’t come across any cases I would consider animal abuse. But I will say my definition of abuse has changed.
Many of my clients keep their dogs outdoors or in the garage in all weather. Some have heated or air-conditioned garages. Some don’t. These dogs are for the most part able to take care of themselves as long as someone checks on them daily to give them food, water and a little interaction.
All of these dogs are happy and loved.
I also have clients who will not leave their dogs home alone for more than an hour. Some will not leave their dogs alone at all. They would never leave their dogs in a crate. They would never leave them tied up outside. The dogs are allowed on the furniture and under the covers.
All of these dogs are happy and loved.
I am not concerned if someone chooses to keep a farm dog or cat outdoors as long as the animal is vaccinated, spayed/neutered and given appropriate shelter and food. I am not concerned if someone chooses to feed her dog the cheapest kibble. I am not concerned if someone never walks her dog. I am not concerned if a dog never masters the concept of sitting on command.
Dogs are dogs, and they seem to do OK regardless.
Ace is one lucky dog (in my opinion), but he was also happy and loved before he came to live with me.
At his first home, Ace was not trained or exercised. He spent most days and nights in his kennel. He ate cheap food. No one wanted to spend much time playing with him.
But when I went to meet my potential new dog, Ace was happy and wagging and playful. I could tell he was loved and well cared for, even if it was on a basic level. He had no concept of a better life. He was happy with what he had – food, water, toys, shelter, vet care and companionship. His family cared about him enough to help him find a new home where he could get more attention. They did not send him to a rescue group, a pound or a shelter.
So how would I define a “good” home?
A good home provides a dog with all his basic needs. And a good home provides a dog with security, companionship and love.
What do you think? Am I right or wrong on this?