This past Sunday I was at Strut Your Mutt in New York City for the Best Friends Animal Society. The yearly event is held to raise money for Best Friends so that they can continue their great working helping every homeless dog find a home. I was on hand to answer dog training questions and to make sure all the doggies got along during the walk. Despite the forecast, the weather was perfect and we had a great turnout.
I was kind of surprised and disappointed to see more than a few little dogs being wheeled around in strollers. It’s no wonder that small dogs have more behavioral problems than big dogs – we don’t treat them like dogs at all. Instead we pretend they are a fashion accessory, a fragile little baby or a cute stuffed animal.
I feel the worst thing you can do to a dog (or person) is to treat them like something they’re not. Dogs have canine needs that are very different than human needs. When you coddle and baby your dog you do him a great disservice and rob him of his true nature (that of being a dog). The dog’s world is four on the floor, meaning all paws touching the ground and experiencing life on a dog’s level.
Driving your dog around in a stroller like an infant may be satisfying your wants and needs but it’s doing nothing for the dog except closing off his experiences. Dogs, especially little dogs, need to be comfortable walking amongst us tall humans and enjoy interacting in a natural way. They also crave exploring the world around them with their noses and putting them in a stroller denies them that simple joy.
I do believe that some dogs do need a lift every now and then. I was stationed next to the Long Island Bulldog Rescue and many of their dogs were wheeled in on wagons and in strollers. Bulldogs are bred with a great breathing handicap and it’s not only acceptable but necessary to give them breaks from over exerting themselves. And even these big guys were out and walking for a good portion of the day.
So get rid of those doggie Popemobiles and let your dog walk like a dog and experience and enjoy life the way a dog is meant to. Let go of your over protectiveness, as well as your personal wants and needs, and think about what’s in your dog’s best interest. There were plenty of Chihuahuas and Yorkies walking just fine on Sunday without no more than a leash helping them along. If they can do it, so can your little guy.