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Yes, I Have Kids . . . They Have 4 Legs!

by Laura Sutherland
Certified pet sitter and dog obedience trainer

laura sutherlandIf we have pets, we have all at some point referred them as our kids. We talk about our fur-babies with such love and devotion that a passerby within earshot would assume we were referring to our biological children.

But, dare I say it? . . .  Our dogs and cats, while vitally important to us, are NOT the same as human children! Yes, when we invariably loose a pet to age or illness, we grieve just like they were a family member – and they were indeed. Yet, despite our best intentions, we actually do our animals a disservice to forget about their own species requirements. Dogs and cats have their own specific needs and genetically programmed drives, instincts and preferences. Just because the tiny Chihuahua CAN be carried everywhere does not mean she should be. Just because the terrier at your feet is impossibly cute when begging for a morsel from your dinner plate, doesn’t mean he should be fed accordingly. Cats have needs independent of your need to hug them and squeeze them. (And by the way most felines hate that!) While they may be more solitary than dogs, they still need companionship. So, it’s up to the human in the relationship to learn what each species needs are. Thing is, they can’t tell us. We have to make the effort to educate ourselves. There are many books on the subject and trainers are all too happy to advise.

It is absolutely fine to love our pets to the moon and back (God knows we spend millions of dollars on them every year, now that’s love) but we must for the sake of their ultimate well-being – which is of course what we want, right? – do our homework and learn what makes each species and breed special above and beyond our own propensity to anthropomorphize them. Why do dogs really bark and how may I be encouraging that? What is my kitty really saying when she serenades me with so many different meows? How can I learn to speak THEIR language? Answering these questions may just bring us closer to our fur-babies than we already are and it sure will earn us a lot more respect from their viewpoint!

Laura Sutherland is bonded and insured, a member of the Professional United Pet Sitters (PUPS) and owner of WAG-N-TRAIN pet services, East Dallas’s premier pet care provider. Visit www.wagn-train.com or call 972.251.0553.

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