Survey: Dog Trainers Consider Their Dogs a Part of the Family

by Cheryl May
news1@ksu.edu
first printed in Front & Finish, 1995

Those who think obedience dogs are furry robots who never have any fun haven't met the dogs owned by the people who responded to a recent survey on obed-comp, an e-mail list comprised of competition obedience trainers.

Most of these obedience dogs are a busy bunch that get to sleep in the house, go on walks with their owners and participate in a wide variety of activities in addition to obedience.

The non-scientific sampling included replies from 71 of the list's nearly 350 members.

Among the findings: most respondents -- 30 -- have two dogs. 12 people have one dog and another 12 have four or more dogs; 15 have three dogs.

Most dogs live in the house and many sleep in the master bedroom. Eleven get to sleep on the bed. Only one person reported having some dogs that lived (slept) outdoors in runs -- all others were house dogs. Many dogs are kenneled outside during the day in runs, but get to come in the house when the owners are home. Eight lucky owners take their dogs to work. One of them said, "Obedience training makes it easy to take a dog lots of places he could otherwise not go. Mine frequently comes to work with me."

In terms of formal obedience training, 19 of the people who have two dogs train both dogs in obedience. Most people who have three or more dogs have at least one retiree or future hopeful that isn't involved in formal training now. Of those who own three dogs, only two people train all three. Of those who own four, only one person trains all four. One person who owns six dogs trains all six. Busy trainer!

Most people do several activities with their dogs so the numbers participating in each activity add up to far more dogs than we had in the survey. Forty-one take their dogs on walks or runs on a regular basis. Twenty-six frequently play ball with their do gs. Twenty-five track with their dogs; 29 are involved with agility on a formal or informal basis. Twelve also show in conformation; 19 mentioned playing informal games with their dogs; 17 do field trials, retriever training or hunt with their dogs; 11 pe ople herd with their dogs; 16 visit nursing homes or do other therapy visits; 10 play frisbee; 13 swim; and eight do flyball.

Other activities reported by six or fewer respondents included lure coursing, carting, scent hurdles, freestyle, dog sledding and grooming.

One trainer who mentioned grooming as an additional activity said, "Hey, it's one-on-one time with the individual dog, and it takes so much time, I'd like credit."

Several people mentioned they spend time hugging or snuggling with their dogs.

Over and over, people mentioned relationships with their dogs and the importance of the dogs to their lives and to their happiness.

"I can't imagine my life without them" was a typical theme.

"He is a very big part of my life... He thinks he is the center of the universe and I haven't had the heart to tell him he isn't."

"My dogs are very central to my life. I make plans around what works for them. I take them with me whenever possible when I travel. I take them with me for recreational enjoyment whenever possible ... I do obedience and tracking and all the other activiti es because I enjoy doing things with them and all these activities build communication and improve our relationship ... the activities make living with each other enjoyable."

"My dogs' role in my life is central. The family resemblance may not be there, but they are definitely my kids!!"

"More important than anything except my husband."

"is a daily focus for me."

"friends and companions" (2)

"Part of the family -- included in everything. We do not go on vacation without him. The obedience is gravy for us."

"Best friend -- Plan most stuff I do around her."

"She's as important to my well-being as I am to hers -- we're friends, companions, playmates and family."

"My dog IS my life. She has totally, irreversibly changed it forever."

"I value the totally unconditional love flowing both ways and she can always make me laugh even when I've got the blues."

"Our formal work is really an outgrowth of the way I spend time with her. Rather than getting a dog in order to train, in other words, I train because it's a very valuable way to spend time with the dogs."

"He's my number one hobby and my best friend at the same time. I spoil him rotten and I think I'd go insane if I didn't have him around to talk and play with."

"My dogs are very central to my life. I make plans around what works for them. I take them with me whenever possible when I travel. I take them with me for recreational enjoyment whenever possible ... I do ob edience and tracking and all the other activit ies because I enjoy doing things with them and all these activities build communication and improve our relationship ... the activities make living with each other enjoyable."

"They are my roommates, confidants, exercise motivation and source of unconditional, complete love!"

"Our dogs are definitely our daughters in dog suits. I could never live without a dog. Life would be boring and lonely without them."

"I can't imagine my life without them."


Copyright 1995, by Cheryl May This article may not be used without permission. To request permission, contact news1@ksu.edu back to the Cheryl May page