Are we spoiling our pets?

Picnic

Are we spoiling our pets? Before you answer, you should know that I'm actually asking two different questions here.

Firstly, do we expect too much from our dogs and cats? In our quest to make them happier and more comfortable, are we stripping away their 'animalness' and trying to make them more human?

And secondly, are we pampering and coddling our cats and dogs to the point that they will come to expect the red-carpet treatment 24 hours a day? How much is too much?

I'd say in most cases a pet's happiness is determined by the amount of attention it receives. Yet when I write about doggy facials, pet stress treatmentshigh-class pet hotels, pet fast food, doggy beer,and even testicular implants for dogs which have undergone 'the snip', I can't help but think it may have all gone a bit too far. How do we know our canines and felines wouldn't be just as happy chasing a ball, grubbing around in the dirt or stalking birds in the garden?

I'd like to stand on my high horse, but hey, I'm as guilty as the next person. It's becoming a running joke among my friends how much my wife Lu and I spoil Keira, our German Shepherd puppy.

Two weeks ago Keira turned one, so we threw her a birthday party. That's natural, right? Well, our intentions were good.

We packed a picnic lunch, collected a bunch of her favorite foods and treats in a bowl for her 'birthday cake' and were all set to spend the afternoon giving her new toys and singing happy birthday (geez that sounds lame in hindsight).

Of course, as soon as we got to the dog park, the last thing Keira wanted to do was sit around under a tree all afternoon when there were so many other dogs to sniff, balls to chase and adventures to be had on the other side of the next hill.

"Today's model of ideal pet ownership seems to be to give them as many mod-cons as we have - fast food, luxury accommodation, beer.... and it does them probably as much (or as little) good as it does us."

It was at that moment I realized that in our efforts to give Keira a great birthday party we had forgotten one thing - what would she want? Everything we had planned was basically for us, not for her. And heck, it's not like she knew it was her birthday, anyway. Far better to let her do her doggy thing - she had much more fun, and we sat back happy that she was happy.

So are we spoiling our pets? I'd hate to think we were trying to 'humanize' our dog - it's her funny canine attributes and instincts which we love so much - but yes, we were guilty.

This leads me to my second question - are we spoiling our pets? Like I said, today's model of ideal pet ownership seems to be to give them as many mod-cons as we have - fast food, luxury accommodation, beer.... and it does them probably as much (or as little) good as it does us.

We've all seen people treat their pets like they would their children - and hey, there's nothing wrong with that. But where should we draw the line? The bottom line is that these animals are our pets, and like children, they need to be taught some gentle lessons on discipline and respect. They rely on us to tell them the rules for the society they live in - they aren't going to work it all out for themselves.

The results of neglecting to do this, of giving kids everything and anything they want can be seen on any city street - those annoyingly whiny brats with anger management issues who have no respect for their parents or anyone else, and who think they know best. Imagine those kids were stronger than you, could run faster than you, and had claws and jaws that would make a grizzly bear stop and reconsider.

Now that's food for thought.