I can’t stand it any more.
Every time I try to find a cute golden retriever to watch on YouTube, I’m hit in the face with torture videos.
Okay, there’s no blood. Or broken bones. But I can’t watch them nonetheless.
The Curse Of The “Good Dog”
Did you know I’ve actually had people walk up to me while I was training Honey to tell me what a great dog she was? And then say they wish they had gotten a “good dog” like Honey instead of the two bad dogs they got from the SPCA (that they never trained or spent any time with).
And it’s those crazy people who are torturing golden retrievers on YouTube.
They read the breed descriptions that say golden retrievers are friendly with people and other animals and that they’re eager to please their people and think they’ve found the perfect dog. No training. No exercise. Golden retrievers are good dogs right out of the box. Right?
And because they expect their goldens (or labs or any other breed with a reputation for being easy-going and gentle) to be “good”, they put them in terrible situations.
How often have you seen on YouTube
- an elderly golden laying on the floor while a baby sticks his fingers in her mouth and pulls on her jowls
- kids riding a golden retriever
- and even a kid standing on a lab.
In many of these “cute” videos, you’ll find the dog tensing his body, licking his lips, or trying to get away. But the myth of the good dog prevents the person with the camera from seeing how uncomfortable their dog is.
I call it torture.
This morning I googled the term “bad golden retriever” to see what comes up.
I came upon a video of a man demonstrating how bad his golden retriever Miley was. He showed the scratches on the table legs, floors, and door jambs. He videotaped the locks they put on the refrigerator to keep her from stealing food. And then he showed her resisting him pulling her by the collar out to her “beautiful” yard—a small, paved area with a pool, bones, and water.
I had to stop watching.
I know the man didn’t think of himself as torturing his dog. He was a dad who wanted an easy and friendly dog for his kids to play with.
But because of the good dog myth, he was unable to see what Miley needed to become the good dog he expected her to be: exercise, training, attention, and affection. A dog smart enough to open a refrigerator is a dog who needs a job.
And he was absolutely clueless that banishing a sociable and loving dog to her “beautiful” back yard was a form of torture.
The Bad Side Of Breedism
There are plenty of good reasons to worry about dog breeding in this country. But one that’s often overlooked is the damage humans do to dogs when we believe that breed characteristics are more important than training and care.
My dog Honey is what trainers call “bomb proof” when it comes to biting. As certain as I am about anything, I know that Honey would inhibit her bite if a child (or anyone) put their hand right into her mouth.
But that’s not because she’s a golden retriever. It’s because we worked every day on teaching Honey to inhibit her bite, following the method of Dr. Ian Dunbar.
I understand why people who are looking for an affectionate, gentle, and easy-to-train dog would be attracted to golden retrievers. When I first started thinking about adopting a dog to partner with me in doing volunteer work with dogs (I was considering guide dog puppy raising as well as fostering), goldens came quickly to the top of a short list.
And looking back at the many dogs we’ve fostered with Honey’s help, I feel I made a good decision.
But Honey isn’t a good foster-sister just because she’s a golden retriever. She’s a good foster-sister because
- her breeder socialized her from birth to accept a range of situations, people, and other dogs
- we continued her breeder’s socialization
- she attended puppy socialization classes, puppy manners classes, and personal, at-home training with a professional.
Oh, yeah, and we don’t torture her to make “cute” YouTube videos.
Stop Torturing Golden Retrievers
Heck, don’t torture any dogs by making them endure something difficult just because someone thinks it will make a cute YouTube video.
Breed rescues spend lots of times describing the challenges of the breed they’re protecting. Visit any golden retriever rescue website and you’ll read about how goldens are rambunctious adolescents, need plenty of exercise, and can do a lot of damage with their teeth until they outgrow (and are trained out of) their mouthiness.
I take another approach when people compliment me on Honey.
I always talk about the training she’s had and the work we do together every day.
Maybe those of us who have goldens and other beautiful dogs of any breed or mix who attract lots of attention can spread the word. It’s not about the breed. It’s about the work we do together every day that makes our dogs so damn good.
And maybe after the word gets out, we’ll stop seeing people torturing their dogs on YouTube because they “know” their breed is good and will tolerate anything.
Your Turn: Do people judge your dog by his or her breed or looks? What do you do about it?