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.


  1. Thank you for this post! I really do wish people were more mindful of what it means to be a pet owner before they took the step of adopting one. My friend just got rid of a pitbull puppy that she only had for about a month because it whined. What did she expect? You are there to take care of them, not the other way around.

    That commercial was hilarious by the way. And I have to admit, I ask my cat on a regular basis if he remembered to do the dishes. But that's just because I'm crazy.

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

    Human-human bonds, too!
    "To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all others." (Sophie Swetchine)


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