Dog shaming pictures seem to have become as ubiquitous as the selfie. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, picture a sad looking dog with a sign around its neck, saying “I chewed my mom’s $1000 pair of Jimmy Choos.” While I am the first to admit that there are larger issues in the world, this actually does bug me a bit.
To begin with, many of the dogs in the photos are clearly uncomfortable with the position they are manipulated into for the photo op; again, not a capital crime but why do we need to make any animal uncomfortable for a few Facebook likes? But the real reason that this gets my goat, so to speak, is perpetuation of the myth that dogs understand their actions as misbehavior.
Even though we use phrases like “teaching rules and boundaries,” dogs do not understand them as such. Dogs engage in a behavior because it either satisfies a hardwired need such as chewing, or because the behavior is being reinforced somewhere in their environment like jumping up on a human. They do not recognize right and wrong as we do. Something either works for them or it doesn’t
It is OUR responsibility to either manage our dog so a behavior cannot occur or to redirect that natural urge to an outlet the works for them and is acceptable to us.
As my friend Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldogs.com pointed out in a brilliant selfie shaming photo on FB, it’s more appropriate to hang the sign around our neck.