Breeds
Share this image

4 Dogs Read Us the Riot Act for Treating Them Like Humans

The Shetland Sheepdog, Bouvier des Flandres and two others implore us to respect their canine-isity!

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Apr 18th 2017


We all fall into the trap. Because we consider our beloved dogs as family, we start treating them like they’re human. These four breed representatives jumped at the chance to set us straight.

1. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu courtesy Troy-Clifford Dargin, Falling Star Shih Tzu

I know I look cute in a ponytail. And since I only weigh about 12 pounds, I’m easily carried. But here’s the deal: Cute as I am (and I’m okay with ponytails!), I’m not a human baby. Heck, I’m full grown at a year old! I’m also sturdier than I look. How about I strut my stuff on the pavement? I’m an esteemed breed with a rich, royal history. We’re little lion dogs, a beloved pet of imperial rulers in China. So please balance carrying with walking time for my ideal lifestyle. And let me mention booties: With consistent outdoor activity, my paw pads grow thicker and more keratinized, offering great protection. So skip the boots unless we’re in an unusually rough environment. And remember that we were developed in relatively cold countries, so our natural coats offer fine protection. I know I look darling in sweaters, but nothing competes with the beauty and function of my own coat!

2. Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres courtesy Karen Kimbrough

Since I may weigh 100 pounds, I won’t lament (as my Shih Tzu cousin above does) that you carry me too much. Instead, I’d like to talk to you about Words. Humans seem preoccupied with words. Talk talk talk. Then more talk! Dog communication style prefers body language, and (if you humans simply must speak) hearing a few meaningful words. Explore your own dog breed’s history, especially before you chide him for certain traits. We’re individuals, but each breed has a temperament stemming from historical development. Case in point: We Bouvier were developed to work with farmers and cattlemen in France. Our stable temperament, coupled with a drive to protect, was crucial to our job. So when I stand in front of a newcomer in our home (he may be your best friend from kindergarten but I’ve never seen him!) with a polite but aloof expression on my face, skip the lecture on friendliness. I am who I am.  In time the newcomer will earn a greeting.

3. Flat-coated Retriever

Flat-coated Retriever courtesy Alexandra Latta, Flat-coated Retriever Society of American, Inc. 

I completely agree with the Bouvier: Study your breed! Once you’ve researched my working history, you’ll know why I thrive with activity and exercise. I’m an exceptionally versatile breed, developed in Great Britain as a companion and hunting retriever.  I’m renowned for wagging my tail (often!) and retaining a youthful joy well into my senior years. While I appreciate your kind words, please remember that Love is a verb to me. Yes I’m wonderful, but stop gushing over me and instead, engage me in an activity. Take me hunting, swimming, jogging or trekking to best show your love. And instead of baking me a cake, singing to me or taking dozens of photos on my birthday, how about taking me on a hike? It’s mainly you humans who like mushy sentiment!

4. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog courtesy Laura Simonelli

We domestic dogs come in an abundance of shapes and sizes. With a few exceptions, most of us were developed to work for (and with) man. I myself was developed in the Shetland Islands to protect gardens, herd sheep and work alongside man. Since I’m one of the most intelligent dog breeds, I’m especially qualified to offer insights. Let’s review some science: We’re Canis lupus familiaris. You’re Homo sapiens. We do share some traits, such as bonding closely to loved ones. But we also have distinct canine traits, likes and dislikes, and certainly expectations for life. You bred us for work, but today we find some of our occupations are obsolete. We aren’t ready to retire before we even had a chance to work! How about trying some new dog activities to give us purpose? I hear Rally-FrEe and Trick Dog are up and coming sports. And lastly, philosophically, remember that we dogs live in the moment. We only going to be around for some dozen years, but fortunately we live in the present. You’ll do well to follow our lead on that one!

Notice the irony of dogs speaking like humans to tell us to stop treating them like human? I asked the dogs above about this contradiction. I either heard them reply “no comment,” or “woof.” Not sure….

Top photo: Flat-coated Retriever courtesy Alexandra Latta

Title photo: Shetland Sheepdog courtesy Laura Simonelli