I was recently traveling the internet highway, allowing it to take me on a risky, high-speed expedition into unknown territories when I arrived at a place I’d not previously known existed: the anti-dog, “Dogfree” world (thank you, Reddit). This is a world inhabited by people ranging from those who tolerate dogs to others who outright despise dogs and wish they didn’t exist, and everything in between. “There are a lot of us, a lot more than you might think, and we come from a variety of backgrounds. Someone you see on a regular basis in your life may dislike dogs and you might not even know it.”
As I dug deeper, I developed a sincere empathy for this group of people and found that I shared many of their top ten grievances about dogs and their owners. Absent from their position, however, is an understanding and recognition of the deep and valuable connections we make with our dogs and how much they teach us about ourselves and others. Nevertheless, it was eye-opening, and many points really hit home and made me think.
We dog owners are just shy of the majority.
45% of US households owned 83.7 million dogs in 2020. This is a significant increase from 2016 when there were 76.8 million dogs in 38% of households. These figures do not include free-ranging or feral dogs who can pose serious threats to the health and welfare of people, livestock, and native animals… not to mention themselves. Talking globally, there are 700 million to 1 billion (BILLION) dogs and 70% of them are free ranging/feral [www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]. That’s right, there are up to 700 million “homeless” dogs on the planet.
It’s no wonder there’s an anti-canine camp out there; we are surrounded by dogs. Many people within Dogfree have had very bad, sometimes terrible encounters with dogs, so their anti-dog viewpoints are understandable.
Let’s face it: it’s nearly impossible to get away from dogs, whether you like them or not. They are everywhere, and sometimes where they should not be. They can be destructive, loud, smelly, dangerous, annoying... and the list goes on. [these descriptors also apply to humans, right?]
Incessant barking in a community is an assault on our personal space over which we have little to no control even with local ordinances. Barking travels through neighborhoods and is a general public nuisance. Owners of compulsively barking dogs need to recognize that it is a problem for which they are responsible. The quality of life of people on the receiving end is being negatively affected. Much of the problem may lie in the false assumption that you cannot prevent a dog from barking, and the sad excuse that “dogs will be dogs.” You can do something about it. [https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/demand-behavior/why-dogs-bark-and-how-to-stop-them/].
Let's be good Ambassadors
We owe it to our neighbors, our friends, our communities to handle and manage our dogs in a way that represents responsible dog ownership and respects others. Perhaps we can’t convert the dog haters of Dogfree, but we can at least try to turn our dogs into ambassadors for what is possible.