Do You Just Love Dogs? Or Do You Respect Them?

German Shepherd/Hound Mix dog

One of my favorite pictures of Shadow–except for the tumor in her jaw starting to grow.

When my dog Shadow died (she’s gracing the blog header), I did some kooky things.

Every morning, I’d say out loud, “I miss Shadow.” I looked through hundreds of blurry pictures we had taken of her. And I spontaneously burst into tears throughout the day.

But the one thing I most wanted to do, I didn’t.

Is it Good for the Dog?

What did I most want to do? Every time I saw a dog, I had an intense desire to rush up to him, grab him around the shoulders, and rub my cheek along his muzzle. Yep, I know. It’s a great way to get bitten.

I can’t tell you how hard I had to resist getting all lovey with every strange dog I saw.

But I knew most dogs, if not all, would find such behavior threatening and uncomfortable. I forced myself to remember that if I really love dogs, I’ll respect them too. I won’t force my attentions where they’re unwanted and allow dogs to approach me on their own terms.

Crazy Dog People Come in Two Flavors

All crazy dog people love dogs. But only some crazy dog people respect them.

I read a blog post at Donna and The Dogs that really stuck with me. She wrote about taking her shy dog, Meadow, to a Vizsla Fun Day. While there, a stranger became obsessed with getting Meadow to like him. When his efforts failed, he snuck behind Meadow, threw his arms around her, and yelled, “Gotcha!”

If you asked this man if he loved dogs, I’m sure he’d say yes. But his actions didn’t show that he respected dogs. Or he certainly didn’t respect Meadow.

Adding Respect to Love for Dogs

Dogs are the most common household pet in America. People spend billions on their dogs each year. If you took a survey, I’m sure most Americans would say they love dogs.

But millions of dogs are killed in shelters each year. Compulsion trainers have the greatest fame and platform. And puppies are still produced under cruel conditions for people who “love” dogs.

Maybe “love” isn’t enough. So here’s my question: how do we teach people that loving a dog means respecting her too? 


What’s Wagging Next: Congratulations to Carrie of Tales and Tails who won the Following Atticus giveaway. Thank you to everyone who played along.

For a review of another great book, join us Thursday, September 13 for Pet Travel Thursday here and at A Traveler’s Library where I’ll be reviewing Driving by Moonlight: A Journey Through Love, War, and Infertility. A road trip is always great.  A road trip with a Golden Shepherd and a classic car is even better.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Thanks for the shout out Pam. I often wonder if it is a matter of not respecting them, or not knowing any better. I’m hoping this person just did not realize he was scaring poor Meadow; I’d like to think it wasn’t done maliciously. I also hope that people who buy from a pet-store are doing so without knowing what conditions the puppies parents are living in. If they DO know these things, and continue to frighten dogs or support puppy mills, than that is what I would consider lack of respect. But in my heart, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I sincerely hope that isn’t the case.

  2. This is a fantastic post.

    We have extended family members that think Dakota is a “strange” dog that they “have no use for” because he is reticent, shy and doesn’t take well to people who come into our home and rough house with him without him even knowing them.

    Not all dogs enjoy this kind of play and Dakota is one of them.
    Every breed has personality traits that are unique to their breed and it would behoove those who profess to be “dog lovers” to learn about the traits of other dogs and as you said, “let a dog approach you on THEIR terms.”

    Dakota is a discerning, loving, sensitive and fabulous dog with those that he KNOWS respect him AND his space

  3. You’ve hit upon something that I’ve noticed as well. I am always impressed by people who train their dogs with respect. I love it when people understand what the dog needs and wants–to the best of our ability. I think respecting a dog is being able to pick up on and correctly interpret their body language and subtle cues. We had a trainer help us do that in order to understand if Kelly and Moses were a good match. I was amazed by her understanding of dog. One thing that drives me nuts is when some people in my family hear the dogs bark, they just scold them and tell them to be quiet. Often they are barking for a reason that needs to be addressed. I don’t mean just let the dogs be poorly behaved. But before we correct them, we should see if we can figure out the reason and solve a need. I guess that is respecting the dog.

  4. Great post Pamela. I try to believe that people are good and that most people who treat dogs inappropriately do so out of ignorence (or lack of knowledge if you prefer.) That being said I think our strongest hope is to continue to write about and educate in person when we can about the proper treatment of dogs. One person at a time if necessary. :-)

  5. OOOOO, I’m looking forward to hearing about that book. Sounds terrific!

  6. What does this statement mean?

    “Compulsion trainers have the greatest fame and platform.”

    We use some compulsion training for our dogs. Yes even little Freighter has had an ecollar strapped to his puppy neck. But does that mean that we do not respect our dog? I would argue that we respect him enough to treat him as a dog. Dog training is not about respect imo but about being fair to the dog when teaching them a new concept or enforcing an already learned behavior.

  7. We had a similar situation with Padfoot at the dog park. Paddy, being the shy spook that he is, does not like to be petted at all. This gentleman insisted that he could get Paddy to come to him and refused to give up. He tried for at least 10 minutes until Paddy got bored and walked off. Fortunately, he did respect Paddy enough not to go after him or anything, and fortunately Paddy would have been too fast for him if he had. :) My boys are both the kind that need their space, and it has taken me some time to realize that and to tell people that when we’re out. If the boys go up to someone, that’s fine, but if someone tries to go up to them, I just let the person know that they are shy and don’t usually welcome strangers. :)

  8. Great post. there was a guy at the dog park who (for whatever reason) decided that he ought to give each and every dog there that day a hug. Gwynn loves hugs… from me. He tolerates hugs… from my immediate family. The guy demanded to know why my dog wouldn’t hold still long enough for a hug. I told him most dogs don’t like someone to wrap their arms around them, and he decided my dog was just antisocial. Some people just don’t ‘get’ the differences between individual animals.

  9. As soon as I saw the title in my inbox, I ruminated on where you were going and how important it is to understand dogs as dogs. I agree with others above – everyone is on a learning curve. It behooves both us and our dogs to spread the word about letting the dog first be dog, then be companion, then, joyfully, be friend. I brought home a Beagle girl from the Humane Society a couple weeks ago (I don’t go there often simply because we always end up transferring a dog to Silverwalk!). Ava is shy, she avoids me, but will let me pet her; I do so sideways with my sunglasses off and my head turned away. I can lift her up next to me in my chair; she doesn’t seem to stay out of fear but she doesn’t stay overlong, either. One of these days, on her own terms, we will become companions – and I will post her for adoption. Now, only very, very select persons could adopt her and do right by her.

    This is a critical post which needs to be in the public domain beyond the dogblogosphere. Thanks!

  10. This is such an important distinction to make. I think respecting a dog also means you treat the dog as a dog, and not some pseudo human or baby with human-like behaviour and emotions. In some ways, I think respect should come before love.
    I’d like to say more, but I suddenly realise I blog as a dog which would probably make it quite hard for anyone to take me seriously.

  11. Having worked around people and their pets for a number of years and having owned reactive and shy dogs, I tend to think it’s because people don’t know any better and that affects how they act around pets. Most people don’t have dogs that are reactive, aggressiveness shy, or fearful. They don’t have to monitor every movement, every approach. They don’t understand how stressed we get at what might happen, how worried we get at what kind of set back it will bring. Sometimes even when they know and have worked with us, it’s not at the front of their mind, it’s not their first thought so they forget.

    I don’t think it’s a lack of respect. It’s just that it’s not their life. Just like my life doesn’t involve having kids so I forget what I say sometimes when my niece is around (trust me it doesn’t have to be a curse word, she picks up everything). Sometimes it’s hard to stay cool, but I do try to explain my dog’s issues and hope they take it to heart for the next dog they meet.

  12. I have to admit that in all of my years of dog walking/pet sitting I never really worked with any fearful dogs and I was probably pretty oblivious to the fact that there are so many dogs that are shy and don’t like being approached.

    Having Saydee stay with us for two months showed us how little we really know about managing a fearful dog. BTW -I always have to fight the urge to say hello to every dog I see! (but I always ASK first!)

    Hopefully if we all keep blogging about it and discussing it, more people will start to realize that every dog is different. :)

  13. Oh boy! You’ve written about something that strikes really close to home today. We had a very scary incident happen a few weeks ago, and I’m still trying to sort it out in my head. I’m also not sure how well it would be received, so I’ve been really unsure about whether to even post about it. We had a run in with someone who loves dogs, but didn’t respect them, and it almost went very badly for all involved.

    I’m still so excited that I won something! I swear, that never happens to me! lol

  14. Oh, like the time when one of my friends thought she could convince my dog to like the water by picking her up and carrying her out, holding her out of her depth, and then letting go. My dog never trusted her again!

  15. Oh, that dog guy is just like my FIL. He *can’t* understand that Silas needs time to get comfortable with people. As soon as Silas starts to settle down FIL starts trying to play with him, which just sets Silas right back on edge. I think I’m going to keep Silas on his leash in the house at Christmas. Not to protect the family–to protect Silas *from* the family.

  16. Oh my gosh, poor Meadow! I really wish there was some way to get through to people like that. Unfortunately, if Meadow had bit him he probably still wouldn’t have seen that it was his behavior that was inappropriate. I am hopeful that the people who are children now will be more respectful – we meet a lot of kids, and their parents are doing a good job of teaching them to ask for permission before approaching a dog. I hope that respect for every dog’s space expands to include the other facets of their lives you mentioned.

  17. What a twit! And if the dog bit him, they’d blame the pooch! Same with cats. Au will be petted and so will Guido, but Target is a scardy cat. Anyone trying to force him to be friendly will get raked over by 28 claws. It’s not Target’s fault; he runs the second you try to touch him – unless you are Family.

    Great post! My cat Au will retweet this from his feed Meow from Malaysia!

  18. “But the one thing I most wanted to do, I didn’t. What did I most want to do? Every time I saw a dog, I had an intense desire to rush up to him, grab him around the shoulders, and rub my cheek along his muzzle.”

    Your entire post was spot on, but this really struck a chord with me. After losing my sweet Timmy so recently, I sometimes desperately want some canine cuddles. I’m holding off though, on either visiting my friends with dogs or getting another just because I think I would expect or wish for the dog to fulfill too much – I want to be sure I love any dog I have for who *they* are, not just because they fill an emotional need of mine.

  19. I love this post so much. And you. I want to come hug you.

  20. So often I wish prose would come to me easily so I can share my thoughts in a fun, intelligent manner. But then I realize that I don’t need to because talented storytellers such as you do it for me! All I need to do is share :)
    I love and appreciate this post because it expresses my own sentiments. We must RESPECT these wonderful creatures that we love so much. Only then can we have a harmonious relationship. Thanx for the great post.
    Happy Tails!


  1. […] Do You Just Love Dogs? Or Do You Respect Them? This post by Pamela really caught my attention. I know a lot of people who profess to just LOVE dogs, and I don’t doubt that they do, but they don’t seem to have any grasp on reading dog body language, or recognizing when a dog is too tired, too scared, too what-have-you to engage. Props for this post. Her question is a good one, too: How do we encourage more dog lovers to actually respect dogs, too? (Something Wagging This Way Comes) […]