That’s me, second from the left. Or rather, that’s Jojo the Dog. My colleague Grace Shen and I did a presentation a few weeks ago on the effects of different walking gear on a dog’s body. We used me as a ‘guinea dog’, and asked someone who had used a choke collar to come up and pull on it with same amount of force they had used on their dog. The woman who volunteered was not able to make herself do this.
First of all, I’m really glad she couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to get hurt! But it does make me think. There are things we do to dogs without thinking, that we would never do to another human being.
Dogs have thinner skin than ours; 3-5 layers of cells compared to our 10-15. Most of them do have that buffer of hair but still, think about what a prong collar must feel like. Yikes! Dogs are instinctually stoic and will normally not react as strongly to pain as a person. So you can unintentionally cause injury by, for instance, yanking too hard on a collar and not even know it.
Dogs have the same basic brain structures as humans. They can feel fear, love, happiness, boredom, and loneliness. And yet we often, without realizing, do things that scare them or create pain, both physical and emotional. Fortunately, we also do things that make them happy.
Dogs do so much for us. They are our companions, friends, and doers of jobs of all kinds. They are always more able to give to us if we take some time to pay attention and learn what their needs are, and then meet them as much as possible.
Like any relationship, this one is a two way street.