I take a ridiculous number of pet photographs. Every time one of our pets strikes a new pose or just looks extra adorable, I snap a picture. Most of my animal-loving friends do the same thing, and have a ton of pet photos on their camera phone. When I look at the photos of my pets or photos other people have taken of their pets, it’s a treat to see the strong connection between photographer and pet. Without trying to sound too cheesy, it’s like I see the animal through a lens of love.
That’s probably the first thing that grabbed me when I stumbled upon artist John Dolan’s sketches of George the Dog. Long before I learned about their incredible life together, I responded to the connection that was so evident in the simple black and white portraits John drew of his beloved George. And, like me, it seems that John picks up pen and paper as often as I pick up my camera; he’s created hundreds of pen and ink drawings of George the Dog in a variety of positions and circumstances. It’s heartwarming.
To discover Dolan’s art is one thing, but when you learn more about the back story, it’s quite another. The first time his art and story came to my attention was via an article in the UK publication, the Hackney Citizen. Apparently this exceptionally talented guy has a rocky past that includes multiple jail stays. He eventually ended up living on the streets of London before he was “discovered,” and he attributes all of his success to George the Dog.
Developing a healthy bond with your new puppy involves more than simply giving it food and a place to sleep. Like any relationship, a good strong bond between a puppy and their person involves continually working on that relationship in productive ways.
Puppies need the kind of focused love and attention you provide any child, to give it a sense of belonging, love and companionship. You and other family members are the source of everything that nurtures, entertains, guides and comforts a puppy. How you provide it is important in establishing a healthy and happy bond with your puppy.
Establishing Rules and Parameters
It’s important to begin establishing rules of behavior from the moment that cute little puppy comes into your home. They will look to you for guidance in everything they do if they know you are the leader of their new pack.
Puppies are individuals with different capabilities. They will learn at their own pace, but with repetition and reward – either verbal or physical – they will learn. Training a puppy is an ongoing process that requires continued reinforcement and consistency. That process is a wonderful way to bond with your puppy and let them know who is in charge. Learning to sit, heel, stay and curb bad behavior does not happen instantly. Puppies and even grown dogs make mistakes and accidents happen, but with patience and positive reinforcement you both will work through that and accomplish the learning goals.
Bonding is something most humans do without thinking about it. As individuals, we each have our own personality, strengths, flaws and preferences. We tend to gravitate towards other people who share our interests, and as the relationship develops, so does bonding. Most pet owners think of their dog or cat as a member of their family and the connection we share with our pets is unique. But does our special bond with a pet help us form closer relationships with other people? According to science, it does.
Beginning some 10,000 years ago, humans and canines formed a unique pact that benefited both species. We know our early ancestors placed great value in their pets because dogs and cats have been found in burial sites with humans, indicating people felt it was important to give their pet a proper burial. Throughout the many decades of animal domestication, the bonds between humans and our furry friends have made us healthier and happier, and helped us cope with life’s surprises. Pets also help us connect with other people because caring for animals gives us a sense of empathy.
Natural disasters and house fires occur every year. We watched with sadness as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfolded. Researchers conducted studies to find out why many New Orleans residents refused to evacuate to safe shelters, and discovered it was because people didn’t want to leave their pets behind. I didn’t know any of these pet owners, but could relate with the decision they had made. Most pet owners are willing to risk their life to save a pet, according to a 2013 Vanity Fair poll that found 81% of dog owners and 71% of cat owners would go back inside their burning home to save their pet.
If you’re a pet lover like me, you probably think that asking if pets make us happier is a pretty dumb question. You may have even uttered something sarcastic like “well duh.” I thought the same thing, until I happened upon a blog post where there was quite a debate going on about that very question.
“Debate? What’s to debate?” I naturally thought. My cats keep my Happy Meter so full, there’s simply no question their furry presence makes me not only happier, but healthier – body, mind and spirit.
The arguments against pets making us happier spoke of things like the hassle of caring for a pet (personally, I’ve never considered caring for my beloved cats a hassle, but whatever); the stress that can arise when they’re sick or injured; the agitation that occurs when your dog shreds your couch cushion or your cat deposits a hairball on the new carpet. I’ll give them points on the stress and agitation issues. No one likes those things. However, I still believe that all of the positives of having a pet far outweigh any negatives.
In my article, How Do You Keep Your Pet Happy?, my furiend Guido the Italian Kitty made an astute observation when he said “My Meowster self thinks your article should be titled How does your PET keep YOU Happy?” It was obvious that all of the things I do to keep my cats happy also make ME happy. I don’t do things that make my cats happy for the sole purpose of my own happiness, but it’s definitely a fringe benefit. I am reminded of that over-used saying: Happy wife, happy life. My version would be: Happy cats, happy me.
Not long ago, an interesting bit of writing popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was a short piece titled Just a Dog – not really a poem but not a “story” either. It was, however, a very moving tribute to man’s best friend. I really wanted to share it with you, but there was no author listed, nor any indication where it came from. I’m no stranger to the copyright law, and I’d never post it here (or anywhere) without permission from the copyright owner.
So, I did a little digging. I found Just a Dog on hundreds of other websites and blogs, and some had even taken artistic license and changed it to Just a Cat. A few had the supposed author’s name – Richard A. Biby – but I couldn’t find the man or where the piece was originally published. It’s definitely worth a read, though, so I would encourage you to Google it. Just not before you finish reading my post. LOL.
The poignant piece brought to mind the times in my own life where people have said things like, “It’s just a cat. How can you spend that kind of money on a cat?” “It’s just a cat, it doesn’t love you like a human child can.” Or the very worst of all, after a beloved cat had died, “It’s just a cat. You can always get another one.”
You’ve probably had similar things said to you about your own dog or cat, because the world is filled with unfortunate people who have never bonded with a pet. They can’t possibly comprehend the depth of your love for “just a dog.” They don’t understand why you would consider “just a cat” to be a beloved family member that you’d do anything to keep safe, healthy and happy. The non-pet crowd often trivializes our relationships with our furry friends, because they don’t get that our pets will never be “just” anything.
Two of my dogs, Keikei and Dozer, love to wrestle with each other outside. Both of them enjoy the back and forth, and trying to get them back inside after their morning duty run was frustrating, to say the least. One day I decided to try a new tactic, and when Keikei was at the foot of the stairs, I called her to come, showed her a CANIDAE Pure Heaven treat, and waited for her to bounce up the steps. When she got to the top, I gave her the treat, along with some praise and a mini massage. Treats will definitely get a dog’s attention, but according to a new study, how you greet your dog matters.
The bond we have with other people or our pet doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process of earning and building on a trust that grows over time. Our human tendency is to gravitate towards people with a positive attitude who are quick to give us a warm smile. It’s nonthreatening, comforting and indicates friendliness. A simple greeting makes you feel good. When touch is added, the emotional response has a lasting effect. Touch is an important aspect of the bonding process with dogs too. A casual touch from someone who cares is a positive sign of an emotional bond. Like us, dogs are social creatures and how we greet them plays a role in their emotional outlook. Dogs need to feel our touch as much as we need contact from people we care about.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.