Affection Can’t Hurt – Whole Dog Journal

Affection Can't Hurt - Whole Dog Journal

This is a guest blog post that touched us deeply. Its author, Jenny Efimova, KPA CTP, is the founder and owner of Dogminded. Efimova offers private dog training in and around Boston, Massachusetts, as well as virtual training for puppies and dogs and their humans. One of her mottoes: “How we teach dogs matters as much as what we teach them.”

Yesterday I shared a few stories on my Instagram page about the false belief that showing our dogs affection and allowing them on the couch or bed may cause behavior problems, including separation anxiety. Since then I’ve received *dozens* of messages from people expressing relief and gratitude and sharing how guilty they have been made to feel for treating their dogs with basic compassion and kindness.

This is heartbreaking and I want to reiterate a few things: One, dogs are social animals who have uniquely evolved to live with and alongside us. Social contact is a *basic need*. They seek comfy places next to their humans for no other reason than that they like comfy places next to their humans.

Not allowing your dog on furniture, ignoring your dog, or rationing how you show your dog affection does not provide “structure” or help resolve behavior issues. This is magical thinking, something that we compensate with when we lack adequate education and skillset to address behavior issues with science and evidence-based interventions. And in the year 2020 it does not have a legitimate place in the world of dog training and behavior.

It’s also abject cruelty and ignorance to advise people to withhold attention, affection, and comfort from their dogs who are already suffering. Separation anxiety, for one, is a disorder not something that results from too many cuddles or access to the couch.

Blaming people for their dogs’ behavior problems they did nothing to cause is especially egregious and has to stop. People don’t deserve to carry this guilt, nor should they be made to shun their dogs and treat them in ways that are contrary to the very reasons we bring dogs into our lives.

Dog training is an unregulated industry and the information you find is not created equal. So please beware of advice from self-proclaimed experts on social media, vet your sources, and follow your instincts when something feels wrong.

I’ve been there and if you have too, you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about. It’s the sense of moving through your own discomfort because a “professional” told you so. I know we can do better than this. Our dogs deserve better.

Jenny Efimova can be reached through her business website: https://www.dogmindedboston.com/

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