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What Kind of "Pet Parent" Are You?

Updated on August 13, 2020
Lee B profile image

I was a retired teacher and live-aboard in Seattle. Now I'm back to teaching in a remote area of New Mexico.

Bad parenting, am I right?

Many years ago, I had an acquaintance with two daughters, then ages 10 and 6. At a small gathering her daughters attached themselves to another friend of ours. This man was obviously uncomfortable. The girls were both trying to sit on his lap at once, then they tried to climb on his shoulders--one succeeded and wrapped her legs around his neck. She then hung her upper body over his head with her face right on his. The man stood up and walked away, but the girls clamored after him, hanging on his legs. The girl’s mother saw this all happening and laughed. She never did anything to stop it; in fact, she seemed to encourage it. Bad parenting, am I right?

But I ask you, how many times have you watched as your dog jumped on someone, ran up at them, slobbered on them, wouldn’t leave them alone, and everyone's favorite, humped their leg? How many times have you called out, “He won’t hurt you!” and ignored that someone was obviously uncomfortable with this attention. If you have allowed your pet to behave in this way, you are a bad “pet parent.” You are an irresponsible pet owner. Your “fur baby” is actually abused by you, because in not providing structure and training, you are putting your pet in danger.

I focus on dogs because I have never felt threatened by a cat, ferret, or parrot.

These animals are not as amenable to training and can be easily physically moved to another location if they are annoying anyone. However, if your ferret is climbing up someone’s pants leg, your parrot is dive bombing someone, or your cat is sharpening its claws on someone’s coat, take care of it! You wouldn’t let a child annoy or endanger someone, why would you let your pet? If your pet, however, is a bear, lion, or alligator, well, I can’t even…

I have been told that dogs need to “run free” by people who refused to fence or otherwise confine their fur babies.

I, too, have been guilty of this. My husband and I lived on acreage in a remote area for many years. There were very few people living nearby. Almost everyone had a dog and almost no one confined their dog. It was not a problem when the properties were so far apart and the residents so few. As the years passed, more people moved in and the dogs started to pack and run during the day, showing up back home as their owners came home from work. We were not aware this was happening until a neighbor fired into a pack of dogs coming after his dog on his property. He hit our dog. Our dog was not badly hurt and came limping home. The neighbor, who was a friend of ours, told us what happened. We thanked him. Lesson learned. Don't learn the same lesson we did by allowing your dog to be hurt or killed!

Since then we have lived in other remote areas, and, always, there is the “dog problem.” Do you LOVE your fur baby? Do you want them to run free and have a good life, not penned up? Think on this. A car hitting or running over your dog is usually fatal. A lead pellet from an air rifle lodged under your dog’s hide will gradually poison them. A real bullet will hurt or kill them. Rat poison and anti-freeze will kill them, usually slowly and painfully. Think also about feral dog packs, wild animals, and wild animal traps. These are the things you are exposing your "fur baby" to when you let them run free. You are neglectful and an abuser if you let your dog run free.

How about taking your dog for a walk or a run? If you are not doing this, you are an irresponsible pet owner. If you don’t exercise your dog, taking them for walks and runs, or playing “stick” or other doggie games, why do you even have a dog?

When you let your dog run free, they will sooner or later pack up with other dogs. That’s what dogs do! When they’ve packed up with other dogs, they’re no longer in your pack. You are no longer the alpha dog and not particularly important to them at all, unless as a source of food.

Are you the alpha in your pack?

Let me emphasize that you should be perceived by your dog as the alpha. We humans have many characteristics in common with dogs. Our packs are our families. When children do as they please, ignoring their parents, it is because they no longer perceive that their parents are the alphas in the pack. Of course, I’m thinking of long-term, serious behavior, not ordinary, occasional misbehavior.

If you cannot control your dog—if they don’t come when you call—you need to train your pet. It isn’t hard, but it takes time and effort. There are plenty of books, blogs, videos, classes, and people you can hire to help you. If your dog does not come to you immediately when you call (I’m not talking about puppies), you are placing your dog in danger and you are placing other people in danger. If nothing else, train your dog to come to you immediately when you call.

Bark! Bark, bark, bark! Bark, bark!

Do you know what your dog is saying when he barks? He is shouting, “F__k you!” over and over again, shouting at YOU. Why would your sweet pooch do this? He does this because if you are not the alpha in your pack, then your dog is. In a dog or wolf pack, rarely do any but the alphas vocalize.

It is simple to train your dog not bark constantly. It is simple but not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort. Your dog must receive a negative consequence EVERY time she barks for more than a second or two. Of course, all dogs will bark when startled or excited. This not what I am talking about. I am talking about the times when your dog barks for minutes leading to hours about nothing in particular. I am talking about the times when your neighbors call you in desperation in the middle of the night asking you to please, please quiet your dog so they can sleep.

If your dog is outside at night and barks, flip on the porch light or another light they can see. Go outside immediately and administer the consequence. Walk quickly to your dog. Use a stern face and voice and say "NO," loudly until they stop barking. Then walk back into the house and turn off the light. Do not otherwise talk to or pet or pay attention to the dog. You will probably need to do this about a million times. And that's just the first night! Better to start early in your dog's life. It's easier.Your dog will eventually learn to recognize the light as the signal to stop barking. But if it's barking, light on, stop barking, pause, and start barking all night after a few weeks, you need professional help. If you don't want to do this work, bring your dog inside when it is barking and listen to it yourself.

If your dog gets little positive attention and little exercise, no wonder she is shouting, "F__k you!" all the time. I need to ask this question again, Why do you even have a dog?


1. Do not allow your dog to approach people in an uncontrolled manner.

2. If you do nothing else, train your dog to come to you immediately when you call.

3. Do not allow your dog to run free. It is not kindness, it is neglect and abuse.

4. Do not allow your dog to bark for no reason for more that 5 minutes. If you don't mind the barking, make sure only you can hear it.

5. You need to be the alpha. If you are not, your dog will be.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Lee A Barton


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