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  • Writer's pictureNICE

Unleashing Authenticity: Championing the Individuality of Our Canine Companions

As any true dog person will attest, our four-legged friends are more than just pets - they are our family.

Dogs have always worked so hard to understand us. Yet we need to up our game to understand them.

A deep understanding of our canine companions requires us to embrace them in their entirety, just as we wish to be accepted for who we truly are, so do dogs. In fact just as it's ours, being seen and respected for who they are is a dog's ethical right.

The heart of this acceptance lies in acknowledging the ethics and welfare aspects of dog care and training, a philosophy I've come to embrace over years of working with, learning from, and living alongside dogs.

Just like humans, dogs are individuals, each with a unique personality, likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Like us, they need freedom to express their individuality, a chance to grow, and an environment that accepts them as they are.

Create Space For Their Freedom

The first step towards granting dogs the freedom they deserve is understanding their communication. When we understand what they are telling us, we can better understand their needs.

We can’t ethically expect dogs to learn our language and ignore their own.

Dogs speak a different language from us, a language far removed from human speech and more centred on body language and behaviour. Take time to learn this language. Watch their body postures, their ears, their tails. Listen to their sounds, their barks, their growls, their whimpers. These are all ways our dogs try to communicate with us, try to tell us who they are.

Once we've started understanding their language, we can further encourage their individuality by not suppressing their instincts.

Similarly, if you have a breed known for their herding instincts like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds, find safe and appropriate ways for them to express this instinct, such as herding gently delivered balls or other toys. This not only keeps them physically active but mentally satisfied as well.

Next, create an environment that respects their canine needs.

Provide them with comfortable resting places, toys that cater to their chewing instincts, and allow them spaces to retreat to when they need alone time. Respect their need for sleep and don’t insist on interaction when they clearly want to be left alone. Remember, respect for their autonomy is a fundamental part of allowing them to be who they are.

Understanding and Respect

We must also remember that love for a dog, just as for a fellow human, is shown through understanding and respect, rather than control and imposition of our own desires.

Training, therefore, should always be about mutual understanding, rather than domination. Use positive reinforcement techniques and remember that patience is key.

One of the things our dogs need to do, to live full lives and gather information is to sniff.

Their sniffing during walks isn't just a habit, it's their way of engaging with their environment, they gather most of their information through scent and create a scent picture based on what they can smell in any one area.

Remember, dogs live in the present, savouring each moment.

By adopting a similar outlook, we can better understand their world and appreciate their unfettered joy in life's simple pleasures. This, in turn, deepens our bond with them, allowing us to enjoy a companionship based on respect, understanding, and genuine affection.

Joining in with canine mindfulness, living in the moment and appreciating everything around us, also makes our lives better

Why not enhance your canine journey by joining us at The National Institute for Canine Ethics?

As a valued member, you'll receive access to 24 free member-exclusive webinars and 24 free member meetings annually. Each event offers a treasure trove of fresh insights, stimulating discussions, and networking opportunities with fellow dog professionals. Remember, the learning journey is unending, and it becomes even more exhilarating when we navigate it together!

We eagerly anticipate welcoming you aboard. Let's embark on this lifelong journey of learning and sharing with and from our dogs, together.

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