“Exercise, Discipline, Affection — in that order.” Many of you know this as my canine fulfillment formula. When I first came to the United States from Mexico, the thing I began to see was that Americans tend to give their dogs “Affection, Affection, Affection,” treating their dogs like children and failing to take on the role of a strong pack leader.
When a dog has no pack leader, she will become insecure and anxious, moving into an unstable energy state. This leads to many of the problems I see, from non-stop barking and separation anxiety to destroying things around the house to aggression. You know the old Beatles song, “All You Need Is Love”? In the case of dogs, not so much. Of course, if people in the US did everything right with their dogs, I wouldn’t have a job, much less be starting out on my second TV show.
Now, while I think people in the US give their dogs too much affection without creating rules, boundaries, and limitations, I have also seen other places where dogs are treated not-so-well. In some of these countries, abandoned dogs wander the streets in feral packs, none of them fixed, and so they increase in number until authorities have no choice but to round them up — an action that more often than not leads to their destruction instead of adoption.
While it is incredibly heartbreaking that so many of these dogs are destroyed because local authorities do not have the resources or ability to rescue them, there are other countries where the problem is worse because people do not have respect for animals in general. In these places, dogs are used for fighting, or frequently beaten, tortured and, if not killed outright, left to die of their injuries.
For example, one of my newer pack members, Argos, is a beautiful galgo, or Spanish greyhound, that was found hanging from a tree, with a broken leg and his muzzle taped shut. Understandably, he was afraid of everyone and everything when I first brought him back from Europe, but he is slowly becoming more social with people as we gradually re-earn his trust.
Rescue, Rehabilitate, Rehome. Fortunately, there are many countries where dogs are respected. Since 1987, it has been illegal in most of Europe to crop a dog’s ears. Twenty years later, the UK Kennel Club banned all dogs with cropped ears from competition. It’s also not unusual to see dogs in pubs and on buses in the UK. In France, dogs are allowed practically everywhere.
Even in China, attitudes are changing and becoming more westernized toward dogs, although they are in danger of veering too far in the American direction. It’s not uncommon to see women with “purse pooches” in the bigger cities and, with rare breeds as status symbols, the world’s most expensive dog was recently bought for $1.5 million dollars by a Chinese industrialist.
Surprisingly, Mongolia — the land of Genghis Khan — has one of the more enlightened attitudes toward dogs. In that country, they believe that to beat horses, dogs and animals is no different than beating a close friend. This reminds me of what Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”