Letter To My Clueless, Dogless Friend

You may need to sit down for this one.

Dear Clueless, Dogless Friend,

I know your intentions are honest, and you truly believe you are offering valuable nuggets of wisdom, but you are only making this worse.

I will try to control my facial expressions and volume while explaining this to you – I’m sure you can imagine my eyes squinting, blood boiling – and I will do my best to ensure that this has no effect on our friendship. Simply, I will think before I speak. A common courtesy you did not give me.

My clueless, dogless friend, you are an intelligent person, and your lack of knowledge of dog behavior does not take away from that in the slightest. So, please do not feel inferior, or the need to prove that you’ve watched Animal Planet, or The Dog Whisperer. I know it may be a hard pill to swallow that you are not the master of all topics, or that I may be able to teach you a thing or two. Try to keep in mind that the words I am about to say are coming from a kind, and an honest place.

You are not helpful.

I’ve welcomed you into my dogs’ lives out of love and hope that you would accept them as something that I hold dear. I allowed you to walk them once or twice, because I understand your deep need to be helpful. It made you feel good about yourself, and I saw it as a harmless act of kindness.

But you took that as entitlement to treat and “train” my dogs to your liking, causing more harm than good. I spent the majority of our walks worried that you were causing unnecessary anxiety for my dogs, or if you were actually hurting their necks by yanking them backwards when you felt they were “misbehaving.” Despite my efforts to ask you to “be careful” or give advice on how to properly interpret their body language, you continued to do as you pleased. What you refused to understand was that your actions were causing them to act out, creating a downward, spiralling cycle.

My dear friend, I know you honestly believe you understand my dogs, and I don’t intend to take that away from you. You do know my dogs, and they love you. You are one of their favorite people, and they thoroughly enjoy your company. The handful of times you’ve walked them have helped you gain knowledge of who they are and what their behavior is like. However, you don’t fully understand them. Sometimes, they even surprise me!

As their parent and handler, I have spent every single day with them since they came into my life. I have watched them grow from stumbling puppies to strong adults, and I have worked tirelessly to improve their behavior from the beginning. My dogs are my pride and joy, but I am not oblivious to their issues. I understand that they have areas to improve on, and we address those daily. When you have a bright idea of how I should be handling my dogs, chances are, I’ve already tried it.

I have a system that works, whether you recognize that or not.

What you fail to grasp is that all dogs learn differently, and you must first understand the dog and how they think/act/feel before finding an effective method of training. Once you discover their triggers and motivators, you can work towards tackling their behavioral issues. This ties into what I mentioned before about you not fully understanding my dogs. The unsolicited “advice” you are sharing with me is based off of how you “helped train” your family dog when you were a child. Maybe that worked for you back then – and that’s great – but that is not in the slightest bit relevant to the current situation.

No, I am not the dog master. I will never claim to be. But these are my dogs, and you are my friend.

The comments you make about their behavior, or the actions you take to “correct” it is causing irreparable damage to our friendship and to your relationship with my dogs. Your efforts are appreciated, but are also unwarranted and unwanted.

I am happy to teach you more about my dogs or dogs in general, but I am going to need you to take a step back and think about how your actions and words have consequences. And to realize that my dogs’ wellbeing will always be more important than my relationship with you.

You are my best friend. I love you.

But you are not helpful.

Photo By: Wesley Barber

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