Unhappy Dogs

All people would agree that intentional physical abuse of a dog is a terrible thing. Yet there is another cruel practice to which dogs are subjected far more frequently than corporal abuse. It is a form of mistreatment which is also devastating and painful to a dog, yet often fails to be regarded as abuse at all. It is neglect.

As a society, we have yet to recognize and appreciate the emotional and psychological needs of animals. As a result, while our laws demand that an animal kept as a companion receive the basic requirements of sustenance and shelter, there is no way to guarantee that an animal receive love and attention. For the dog, the absence of human attention and affection is tragic.

Because dogs, like human beings, are pack animals, they, like us, need to socialize in order to remain psychologically healthy. Since domestication, however, companion dogs no longer have packs of dogs with which to live. As a result, they consider humans to be their families, and we serve as their surrogate packs. Moreover, both people and dogs are “den” animals, which is why dogs can be housetrained so easily. They want shelter in a safe, secure den––our homes––and they want to go outside to relieve themselves. Because of the need to socialize and the need for a den, keeping a dog isolated in a backyard goes against a dog’s most basic instincts.

The thwarting of these needs results in miserable, lonely dogs who exhibit aberrant and often annoying traits, such as persistent barking and whining. These behaviors, which are the dog’s way of pleading for attention, are often met with hostility by the dog’s human family, which hurls insults and sometimes objects at the dog in a misguided attempt to quiet the animal. This interaction further fuels the dog’s sense of rejection and often fosters in the human guardian a resentment of the animal.

Dogs offer people undying loyalty and unconditional love. In return, they ask for nothing more than a sense of belonging. The realities of modern life, as well as the dog’s own needs, often require that dogs spend some part of the day in the backyard. Many of these dogs receive plenty of love and attention and are happy and healthy companions. Yet to banish a dog permanently to the backyard, while the rest of his "family" enjoy one another inside, is a betrayal of this loving pact––and that is no way to treat man’s best friend.