The tradition of lap dogs, tiny breeds, spoiled by kings, empresses and the king's court goes back at least 600 years. The sight of seeing Paris Hilton carrying her bejewelled Chihuahua around in a tote bag seems to inspire the whole generation of dog owners to treat their "fur baby" doggie companion like a cross between a toy and their human baby.
Recently the term "fur baby" was added to the Oxford English dictionary.
A comprehensive survey by Animal Medicines Australia during 2016 shows 64% of dog owners up from 59% in 2013 regard the dog as a member of their family not just a companion.
On a Saturday morning in Melbourne recently at a dog training course a couple arrived for dog training class carrying this small fluffy dog because it doesn't like to walk. Another man arrived with his Labrador cross dog that had developed some behavioural issues. He said the problem is, he doesn't like telling his dog what to do. Others wonder why their dog doesn't like other dogs or it won't listen to them, Or it won't stop barking, or jumping up on people.
About half of the students in the dog training class struggle to speak to their dogs in anything other than a pleading high pitch voice.
The woman in charge of the dog training session said today it's quite different to 20 years ago when a dog was a dog and it had to be obedient. It had to fit in with the family and behave. Compared to now when we've come used to seeing lots of these dogs becoming surrogate children.
When I tell them you need to give the dog clear instructions, set boundaries and enforce them. The owners say "will he stop loving me?" or " Might he stop listening?"
The trainer says "he's not listening already." Because toy size dogs are so cute and small they tend to get away with a lot of poor behaviour. Alternatively the dog may have been chosen from a dog rescue shelter and the owner may feel that they need to compensate for the neglected emotional needs in the dog's earlier life.
What's $12 billion and divide by $274 million? I'm no mathematician so I just know it's not much money, compared to the total spend across the nation on pets annually. Well $274 million per year is the amount Australians spend on dog training annually compared to $12 Billion we spend in total on our pets in Australia each year.
So our dog trainer suggests that if there is only one thing we really must do for our precious dog except worry it won't love us anymore it is this. Take it along for some regular obedience training. Regular walks to the park to meet up with other dogs and dog owners is another great thing to do for both you and your beautiful dog.
Excerpt from an article in the SunHerald on 7th May 2017 by Melinda Houston.