Embarrassment, dread, shame, fear. These are sadly all phrases I commonly hear from clients about how they feel when they have to go out in public with their canine companions who may struggle with anxieties or that require other types of emotional support.
Often the biggest cause of people having those feelings is not actually their dog, but the response and judgment of other humans.
There can sometimes be a lack of compassion and often a lot of misunderstanding. This can sometimes result in people tutting, rolling their eyes, staring, and even making quite hurtful comments about a dog that is struggling in some areas of life, this is, without doubt, a hard pill to swallow for many!
It's heartbreaking for the humans who know and see, their canine companion as loving and sweet-natured thought of in such a negative way.
Lack of understanding about a dog that struggles to cope can be looked upon by some as the dog being bad, mean, nasty, and even aggressive, depending on the dogs coping mechanisms.
It is a tough gig to put yourself through that day after day, and soon the human can start to feel like their dog every time they step out the door....overwhelmed and worried,
So, firstly, I want to say I have been there. In actual fact, I go through something similar to this almost daily. I have 13 huskies and having that breed alone can be cause for judgement for some. None are ever outside off lead, and all are friendly with people and dogs, although Beanie worries about male off lead dogs running at him.
Despite there being no bite incidents, no fight incidents, with my dogs and others, I have been told in the past by someone who loves near me that, and quote "status type dogs should all be muzzled", and other plucked out of the air judgments and comments.
I will not tell you what the response I screamed in my head was to that little gem of information about muzzling them! It hurts, I go through a range of emotions when they say comments and they don't even know my dogs and have no reason to say such things, BUT, I have to remember that it's about them and their lack of understanding, not mine!
So I know what people go through when they do have dogs that bark, lunge and jump when they are worried and just trying to keep themself safe.
The judgement can feel ten fold and no matter how much you try to explain they are just scared, it often will fall upon deaf ears to those who just don't want to hear it and can only see the behaviour and not see the cause.
It can be easier for people to have empathy for a dog who feels scared when the dog slinks down low to the ground, hides behind their human, and even urinates in fear. If only people could see that the barking and lunging dog is feeling the same emotion but they just use different tactics to try and keep the trigger from threatening their safety. I always try to consider maybe some people who say negative things may have had an experience that led them to this way of thinking. I have a fear of the dentist so I can have some understanding when past experience has led them to see barking dogs as a concern. So why do I write this? Well, because we all have our own battles, none of us humans are perfect. This unrealistic expectation that all dogs are bad unless they are 100% easy-going, cuddly, loveable goofballs IS NOT YOUR BURDEN TO CARRY.
We would all love to have dogs that are happy, easy-going sweethearts, and to those of you lucky enough to have such a dog, enjoy them, because they wonderful, and they make life as a canine caregiver very easy. Those gorgeous Goofballs are not as common as those dogs that struggle though.
If you know your dog struggles then you must seek the help of a reputable professional, for your own sake, but most importantly for your dogs sake. If you are already seeking the help of a reputable professional and working hard to implement the recommendations they provide, then hold your head up SUPER high and know that you have more of an understanding of dogs than a lot of people.
Many dogs may not be the easiest of dogs to live with but they will teach you so much, and remember when the human race becomes a species of perfection maybe then we can start to judge dogs in such a manner.
So don't ever be ashamed for having a dog that needs you, and know that whilst everybody may not know your dog's personal battles, your dogs need for you to be their safety net is the only thing that really matters!