As pack leaders, our primary responsibility is to provide protection and direction to our dogs. One of the most vital ways we can protect our pack is to take them to the veterinarian regularly to ensure that they live long, healthy lives. Your vet is one of the most important members of your extended pack.
But veterinarians don’t just treat sick dogs. They deal with animals of all kinds, and they do a lot more than medicine. That’s why the World Veterinary Association created World Veterinary Day, celebrated yesterday. It’s a fantastic reminder of everything that veterinarians do when they aren’t taking care of our pets.
The purpose of World Veterinary Day is to make the public aware of the importance of the veterinary profession, and its roles in health and welfare, food safety and security, safe world trade in animals and animal products, and public health.
The theme for 2014 is Animal Welfare, and I think it’s worth sharing this part of the “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare,” drafted by the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) and endorsed by the World Veterinary Association — the “Five Welfare Freedoms”:
- Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
The first freedom is pretty obvious. We need to provide our dogs with adequate food and water. The same is true of the third, and is a big part of the reason we have veterinarians in the first place.
I want to talk about freedoms two, four, and five, because they encompass things that might not be obvious and reinforce our need to protect and direct our pack. What does “freedom from discomfort” mean? It sounds like just providing a dog with a cozy bed to sleep in, making sure their nails are trimmed, and their collar isn’t too tight, right?
But “comfort” goes beyond the physical. In order to be comfortable, your dog also has to be psychologically balanced. That cozy bed doesn’t provide anything if your dog is anxious or hyper. The body may lie down, but the mind won’t rest. This is why exercise is so important. It relaxes the mind and drains excess energy so your dog can then enjoy the comfort you provide.
Freedom four, to express normal behavior, might be a bit puzzling. At first glance, it sounds like just letting your dog do whatever she wants — barking at everything, chewing up the house, chasing bicycles and skateboards. Those are all dog-like behaviors, right?
The key word in this freedom is “normal,” and the key to normalcy is discipline. Dogs want to work for their food and affection, and they want to please their pack leaders. You can also use discipline to reinforce the calm energy state you achieve after exercise. And remember, “discipline” does not mean “punish.” In the dog sense, it just means teaching a dog to follow the rules.
For example, if you train your dog that she must sit calmly while you prepare her food and not approach it until you give permission, you’re letting her earn that food as well as building her self-esteem by allowing her to do something for you.
The fifth freedom, from fear and distress, also involves dog psychology but the major factor in providing this freedom is you, the pack leader. This is why calm energy is so important. Animals follow calm energy; humans are the only animals that will follow an unbalanced leader. If we are not calm, our dogs are not calm either.
Also important is consistency. If you create the rule that your dog always has to sit and wait before you put the leash on, then you have to do it every single time. Otherwise, your dog will just become confused or even rebellious. If you aren’t consistent, they will start to test the limits of what they can get away with. A dog without rules, boundaries, and limitations can become very distressed and possibly fearful, and that is not a comfortable dog expressing normal behavior.
By the way, while I have your attention, I want to thank my fans in the U.S. for making my Cesar Millan LIVE tour such a success, and say hello to my fans in Asia. I’ve just arrived for a four country tour over the next few weeks, and I’m very excited, not only to be visiting Singapore again, but to be visiting some new places for the first time, including Hong Kong.
Stay calm and help me bring the Five Welfare Freedoms to the world, one dog at a time!