February 23, 2006

"just a couple of drops"

the new york times has an article about the growing demand for dog traininers and behaviorists.
Dog experts have noticed other signs of a growing concern over bad behavior by dogs, despite all the gourmet biscuits, educational toys and $70 dog sweaters lavished on them. (Perhaps because of that treatment, others argue.) Enrollment in obedience classes is escalating, veterinarians are seeing an increasing demand for help with behavior problems, and ratings for "Dog Whisperer," the National Geographic Channel's dog-behavior program, are rising. Figuring out how to make the dog mind, it seems, has become a national obsession.

The problem, some dog experts suspect, is not that there are more bad dogs, only more demanding owners. People expect their dogs to cooperate with their busier lives — to behave at cocktail parties, at real estate open houses and in cafes and shops — and to respect their better-appointed homes. And in a culture that values achievement and excellence, they readily assume that dogs value the same things, especially when there are obstacle courses to master and social graces to display.

Some dog experts wonder whether the focus on behavior is the best thing for the dog or just the latest form of self-help for people: with their furniture, their clothes and their cooking skills already up to snuff, the only way to make their lives better now is by improving the dog.

"This is the generation that invented the gifted and talented kid," said Jon Katz, the author of books on the human-dog relationship, "so now you have the gifted and talented dog."

the article goes on about big dogs not getting enough exercise and starting to chew down the apartment or becoming aggressive. smaller dogs may cause problems of a different kind:

Ms. Arden said small dogs present a different kind of trouble, which she calls small dog syndrome. Many owners (especially those who think of themselves as parents) treat their Yorkies and Chihuahuas like babies, she explained, and this leads to spoiling. Owners often fail to discipline small dogs when they relieve themselves on the carpet, for example. "Because it was just a couple of drops, owners wipe it up and say, 'Oh he just didn't want to go outside and get his little feet all wet,' " Ms. Arden said. If it was a Lab, she added, the owners wouldn't say the same.

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