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Championing the Rights of Companion Dogs in Our Domestic Homes

As our understanding and appreciation of the rich emotional lives of animals deepen, we are starting to acknowledge an essential aspect that's often overlooked - the rights of our companion dogs. More than simply fulfilling their basic needs, recognising and respecting these rights is vital to fostering a respectful and nurturing human-canine relationship.

The Right to Choose When They Are Touched

Humans are tactile beings; we express our love, concern, and comfort through touch. However, it's essential to remember that our dogs are unique individuals with their comfort zones and personal boundaries. While our intentions might be pure, our dogs should have the right to choose when they wish to be touched or handled.

To respect this right, we must first understand our dogs' body language, which is their primary form of communication. They communicate their comfort or discomfort through subtle cues - flattened ears, tucked tails, avoidance of eye contact, yawning, lip-licking, and more. If your dog displays any signs of discomfort or retreats when you reach out to touch them, it's important to respect their decision. By doing this, you're showing that you value their feelings and comfort, which helps build trust and mutual respect.

The Right to Healthy Food

Just as we need a balanced and nutritious diet to lead healthy lives, so do our dogs. They have a right to food that supports their overall health, vitality, and longevity. It's our responsibility as pet parents to provide them with a balanced diet.

This requires a good understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet for dogs. Many commercially available dog foods may lack essential nutrients, or conversely, have excesses that can harm our dogs in the long run. Furthermore, each dog's nutritional requirements can vary based on their breed, age, size, health status, and lifestyle. A consultation with a canine nutritionist can help ensure they're getting the nutrients they need.

The Right to Choose Their Sleeping Places

Dogs, like humans, have preferences when it comes to their sleeping arrangements. While we might want our dogs curled up with us on our beds, they might prefer a quiet corner, a soft rug, or their own cosy bed. They should have the right to choose their sleeping spots.

To respect this right, you can provide various options and observe which one they prefer. It's also vital to maintain these areas, keeping them clean and comfortable, and respecting their choice, especially when they're sleeping or resting.

The Right to Quiet Time

In our busy lives, it's easy to forget that our dogs also need their quiet time. Like us, they need periods of rest and relaxation, free from any potential stressors. Regular quiet time allows dogs to rest their bodies and minds, contributing significantly to their overall health and well-being.

This quiet time could involve a peaceful rest in their preferred sleeping spot, a quiet stroll in the garden, or just some time away from the noise and hustle of the house. As dog caregivers, it's important to structure your dog's day to include periods of activity and rest.

The Right to Be Free from Threats and Harm

Our dogs have a right to a safe and secure environment. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 in the UK clearly mandates that animals must be protected from pain, injury, suffering, and disease. It's our duty to ensure they live a life free from any form of abuse or neglect.

This means taking measures to ensure our homes are safe for our dogs, removing potential hazards, and never subjecting them to harmful situations or poor quality dog trainers. It also includes providing them with preventative healthcare, promptly attending to any illnesses or injuries, and helping them lead a physically healthy life.

The Right to Emotional Safety

Our companiondogs are sentient beings, capable of a wide spectrum of emotions. From joy and excitement to anxiety and fear, they experience feelings much like we do. Their right to emotional safety is as important as their physical safety.

Ensuring their emotional safety involves creating a stable, loving environment that minimises stress and anxiety. Abrupt changes to their routines, loud noises, being left alone for long periods, or being subjected to punishment can cause emotional distress. Instead, positive reinforcement, suitably healthy socialisation, and cognitive enrichment should be used to promote positive behaviour and emotional well-being.

To better understand their emotional state, it's important to learn to read your dog's behavioural cues. Any sudden changes in behaviour could signal distress or discomfort and should be addressed promptly.

Moreover, it's equally important to ensure your dog's emotional needs are met, which involves providing companionship, mental stimulation, and opportunities for play and exercise. Allowing your dog to engage in natural behaviours, like sniffing during walks or playing with other dogs, also contributes significantly to their emotional health.

Recognising and respecting these rights of our companion dogs forms the bedrock of a positive, nurturing relationship. It allows them to lead enriched lives and helps us appreciate their individuality, intelligence, and emotional depth.

Remember, our dogs are not mere possessions; they are sentient beings deserving of respect, dignity, and love.

By championing their rights and ensuring their well-being, we're not just improving the lives of our dogs; we're also becoming more empathetic, compassionate, and responsible humans. Let's embrace these principles and commit to creating homes where our dogs feel safe, loved, respected, and truly at home.

Calling All Dog Professionals

Consider joining us at The National Institute for Canine Ethics. As part of your membership, you'll have access to 24 free member guest webinars plus 24 free member meetings every year. Each of these will provide fresh insights, lively discussions, and opportunities to network with fellow dog professionals. After all, the journey of learning never ends, and it's all the more exciting when we embark on it together!

Looking forward to welcoming you aboard and embarking on this lifelong journey of learning and sharing together. Keep wagging!

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