Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One or the Other

Being a science major kind of student there's a lot of categorizing. Okay so I'm a psychology major so it's not so much categorizing acids and bases in chemistry or mammals and what not in biology as it it categorizing deeper things like relationships we have with various things. Which is weird to me as i don't terribly appreciate or share the innate desire to pigeonhole everything into one little category and say that's all it is and it is nothing more. That's not kosher to me, never has been. 

So this semester I'm taking a class on human - animal interactions, it's what I'm interested in and it related to everything i do. Really, i work in the pet industry and i play dog sports. Besides school that's all i do, pretty interesting 20 year old aren't i? Anyways, in class we discussed pets of course and it came up in discussion that animals that are used in competitions cannot be considered pets. The insistence she had that it had to be one or the other and not both really irked me, unfortunately I'm not that kid that shouts out disagreeing with people in class. I'm rather shy, it's unfortunate. I am very sure that there is little chance of anyone besides me in that class having participated on a competitive level in dog sports (horse sports maybe, but that's a whole different kettle of fish that i have never played in). 

Now let's think about this specifically for dog sports as that's what i do and what most who read this do.  Does it have to be pet OR performance? A or B, yes or no, fill in only one circle or the scantron of life will explode?

I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I don't think it's good for them to be that way either especially in the sports i participate in. Dogs are emotionally deeper than we realize, they can tell if people don't like them or are faking it and are just using them. They form attachments to each other but also to us, how could they not? The stronger that bond to us, the better the dogs seem to excel in most of these sports. Sure there are people in dog sports that don't consider their dogs as anything more as tools to bring in ribbons and titles and make themselves look good, i understand that exists despite the fact it doesn't sit right with how i view things. I'd like to think those who just shove their dogs in kennels and ignore them when not doing sport stuff or dump their dogs for not competing to their standard are a very small minority.

However out of the 168 hours there are in a week, my dog is only doing sports related things maybe 6 hours on average. That means the other 162 hours of the week she is sleeping on the couch or bed or in my arms, hanging out with me on my lap while i do homework, waiting for me to come home from school or work, or playing with me. That's about 96.5% of the time, which is an outstanding majority of time in a week that she is doing ordinary pet like stuff. It's the pet stuff that we do and the time we simply spend being together that i think helps our success in sport, pet and performance do not have to be separate. Of course my experience is with my own dog but from chatting with and observing many in my club and even people from elsewhere, the majority of people seem to follow along that it's not pet OR performance but that they go hand in hand.


  1. Love this post so, so, much. I'm a 21 year old Psych student who also has an interest in human-animal bonds/relationships, as well as animal behavior, so I totally relate to you on that.

    I think that a person who makes a comment like "any dogs that compete are not pets" has a truly misguided idea about pet ownership and dog shows/competitions. I wonder if perhaps she was referring to conformation events without really thinking about things like agility or obedience. I'd contend that a breed dog can be a pet, too, but there ARE a lot of big-time breed handlers that sort of treat the two separately, if that makes sense.

    I, personally, don't think that a dog that competes is any different from a pet, unless in extreme circumstances (like I said, with those really serious types -- which you can probably find in any activity of any animal fancy). My dog, Marge, is a pet first, an agility dog second. Yes, I want to take her to her MACH, but the only reason I want to do that is because of how much she enjoys it. I do enjoy competition, yes, but I spent way more time walking Marge, taking her to the pet store, going on hikes, etc., with her than I do training in agility. In fact, many people who do agility (or obedience, or rally, etc.) have very well behaved, very well cared for pets BECAUSE of the exercise, socialization, mental stimulation, and health care that they get, so to say that they aren't pets is just ridiculous!

    Wish I was in that class - I'm usually pretty quiet in class, too, but I think I would have argued on that one!

  2. I sure hope they aren't mutually exclusive, but the thought of another dog just being an employee of sorts is so sad.