Even worse, well-meaning pet owners often expect a dog to behave as a person would in certain circumstances. This is not only unkind and unfair to the animal; it can also be downright dangerous. The popularity of social media videos showing patient family dogs tolerating increasingly rambunctious toddlers and running off-leash in potentially dangerous circumstances concerns Roland.
“One of our core responsibilities is to keep our pets safe,” he says. “How many dogs are injured each year because they dash into the street after a squirrel or chew on an exposed power cord or get in a fight with another dog while not properly supervised? I suspect one of the most common phrases uttered at the Emergency Room at the veterinarian’s is, ‘Well, she never did that before.’
“But dogs do these things all the time! We humans have a sense of the future; we understand long-term consequences. Dogs don’t. They rely upon us to make good decisions that will keep them safe.”
And it’s not only your beloved pet who can be hurt when you project expectations of human behavior onto her. Roland recalls an incident he read about in which a dog got loose and killed several free-ranging chickens; the dog was labeled a “killer” and there was an outcry to euthanize her.