Friday, June 28, 2013

Do pet owners expect too much?

This video ("Every Home Needs a Harvey"), which is an ad for TV advertising, was screened at the Australian Companion Animal Council earlier this month. It is funny on the surface but the joke speaks to an important truth about companion animals: sometimes we bring them into our lives and expect TOO MUCH. Consider poor Harvey, who has to compete with other dogs to woo the prospective owners (and what is with those unimpressed expressions???) - we expect animals to fit into our urban environments (not always animal friendly) and our busy lifestyles (also not always animal friendly) and behave according to OUR concept of good behaviour. One of the primary reasons for surrender of animals to shelters (and re-surrender) is failure of the pet to meet the owner's expectations. 

But sometimes those expectations are outrageously unrealistic. Companion animals are domesticated, yes, but they're living, breathing, complex organisms, a bit like us. If you are adopting an animal, its worth considering: what are my expectations of this animal? (For example, do I expect it to be house-trained within a matter of days? Do I expect the animal to be quiet if I am at work for ten or twelve hours?). How realistic are these expectations? Do I have a plan B if these are not met? (for example, engaging a dog minder?  pet play dates? environmental enrichment? Am I going to take a preventative stance and invest in training?) What can this animal reasonably expect of me and how am I going to consistently meet those expectations?

Managing these expectations can facilitate a deeper, richer and ultimately more sustainable human-animal bond.