Americans love the idea of freedom of choice. We’re a nation built on the ideal that as long as we play within the structure or framework our Founding Fathers created, we can do whatever we want to do, be whoever we want to be, and decide what is and isn’t right for us. Freedom is highly valued in our society, and the right to choose is fundamental to our way of life. For human beings freedom of choice is a good thing-at least for the most part. I could go off on a tangent about how 99% of our happiness comes from the most basic freedoms (and basic needs being met). Once you have too many choices, too many options, and too much freedom, you actually become less happy - BUT I digress. We LOVE freedom of choice and it is, for the vast majority of the time, a good thing.
HOWEVER, just because something is good for us as humans, doesn’t mean it’s good for our dogs. Let’s imagine a world where our dogs have total freedom of choice. Given the choice to either chase a squirrel or not, or dog would probably choose to chase a squirrel. Seems harmless enough, until the squirrel runs in front of a car and our dog follows. Given the choice between eating everything the humans are eating (without portion control) or eating dog appropriate food, our dog would probably jump on the table and clean house. Probably not the best idea, especially if we happen to be eating grapes or chocolate. Then our dog’s choice would land them straIght in the hospital, or worse, an early grave.
It’s easy to see how our dogs lack the ability to make good choices. It’s not their fault, we’re the ones who brought them into the human world.
In nature, animals can make good choices, because they’re in their own element. There are no cars, buildings, humans etc getting in the way. It’s more or less the exact opposite of say, downtown Dallas. So right off the bat, the rules have changed the moment we have brought an animal into our world. Dogs don’t know the rules here, they can’t possibly make good choices without direction, leadership, and proper teaching. This leads me to the second point about freedom of choice I’d like to make: having to make too many decisions stresses out our dogs.
Just as a human being can get overwhelmed when there’s too much information to process, our dogs can very easily get overwhelmed too. Having a capable leader they can trust to make good choices takes the burden off of our dog’s shoulders. They can relax into their role. Being a good dog parent means keeping them safe and as stress-free as possible. Dogs don’t want to be stressed out, overwhelmed and afraid, and we certainly don’t want that for them either. The fact is that what seems like a simple, mundane decision to us, can confuse the ever-loving sh*t out of our dogs. Why would we do that to them?
We need to take charge as responsible dog parents, we need to show our dogs that they can trust us to make good choices on their behalf. Remember, this isn’t a part time job. If our dogs have to make some of the choices, they feel like they need to make all of the choices. If instead they see that we’ve got it covered, they can relax and enjoy life. It’s our duty to help our dogs navigate this world. This will keep them safe and also stress-free.
High-fives and wagging tails all around