Wednesday, October 2, 2019

This Psychologist Thinks Dog Owners are Cruel because they Have Jobs

"Oscar" by JHanson12 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ is a popular mantra used to push prospective dog and cat owners to avoid pet stores and breeders and instead choose a pet from a shelter or rescue so as not to add to the number of homeless animals. This movement has made enormous strides as of recent and millions of dogs have been adopted, prompting even some rescues to start importing foreign dogs (those who are anti-adoption promotion often use this is an excuse to discredit the movement, rather than credit it for its success).

The dog population appears to no longer be at such a critical mass that it is increasingly common for many dog rescues (mostly desirable breed-specific rescues) to ‘hold’ onto dogs, opting to take whatever amount of time necessary to find them the ‘perfect’ home. Seems reasonable, except perfect often means a child-free, financially affluent, large fenced backyard-having home with owners who are retired or able to work from home and have at least 10 years of experience with the breed at hand.

This kind of nuttery neutralizes the point of a ‘rescue’ since either the breed being ‘rescued’ is so rare or valuable that there is no risk for it not getting adopted (which makes it a non-rescue), or the rescue is snubbing needy dogs because of their impossibly high standards.

Not only do we have snobby dog rescues to contend with, but there are also some members of the scientific community who are (sometimes unknowingly) spreading animal rights garbage based on their own emotions. It’s a sobering reminder that not even dog owners are safe.

Clive Wynne is a psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory, and he shockingly appears to NOT be an animal rights nut. He even makes an excellent point in his book Do Animals Think? That sounds like one of those fake science books that exist just to advocate for animal rights with BS claims that animals are spiritual, have their own special language, or are equivalent, just different, to humans, but it surprisingly appears not to be (in other words, he’s another accidental animal rights activist). I haven’t read the book, but I definitely agree with the following:

In this provocative book, noted animal expert Clive Wynne debunks some commonly held notions about our furry friends. It may be romantic to ascribe human qualities to critters, he argues, but it’s not very realistic. While animals are by no means dumb, they don’t think the same way we do. Contrary to what many popular television shows would have us believe, animals have neither the “theory-of-mind” capabilities that humans have (that is, they are not conscious of what others are thinking) nor the capacity for higher-level reasoning.

Engagingly written, Do Animals Think? takes aim at the work of such renowned animal rights advocates as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall for falsely humanizing animals.

This makes it all the more sad that Dr. Wynne has written this stupidity in a recent article about his research on dog minds:

Dogs gave up their free-ranging, roaming, hunting lives in order to hitch their wagon to ours, and I think that implies duties toward them. You know your dog needs feeding. Most recognize that dogs need exercise. The thing that upsets me is that people don’t give enough thought to the fact that a large part of what makes it so wonderful to live with a dog is your dog’s social nature. You come home and there’s at least somebody who’s happy to see you.

So I think the cruelest thing that we routinely do to our dogs is leaving them home for eight, 10, 12 hours a day. If your life is such that your dog is going to have to be left alone for more than four hours routinely, then you should reconsider whether you have a life that a dog can comfortably fit into.

According to Wynne, leaving your dog home alone for 8-12 hours per day is cruel—wait, no, scratch that—more than four hours. How he arrived at this arbitrary number is anyone’s guess. There is no evidence presented for this statement in the article. What he does say in the article is that dogs move on more easily than humans, that dogs care enough about their owners that they feel distress when we express distress, and that the reward centers of their brains light up when their owners are nearby. 

As far as I know, he has no evidence for the amount of time a dog can tolerate without its owner, or even if there is any difference in the dog brain between 4 hours and 8 hours. In my experience, their reaction to my return seems to be the same. 

Wynne has pretty much stated that he believes most dog owners are cruel because they leave their dog alone for more than 4 hours routinely. Surprisingly, most owners do this because they need to go to work and make enough money for themselves and their dogs so that their pets can eat and receive expensive veterinary care. 

Wynne seems to agree with the rescue snobs that only highly privileged people—those who are financially secure retirees, people who work from home, or people who are permitted to bring their pets to work—should be ethically allowed to have dogs.

Wynne also says that “dogs have a special capacity to form relationships with anything”. Doesn’t this make the case that even if he does feel that dogs simply can’t go without a social partner for an arbitrary amount of time, that getting two dogs can be an option for people who work? He also says that you can hire someone to walk your dogs during the day. 
 But the thing about dogs is they make friends so easily. You can have a neighbor or a friend come, or you pay a dog-walking service. That’s part of my whole point here. Your tame wolf will probably not be interested in having a stranger come and take them out. But your dog will.
As a former dog caretaker and walker, I can tell you that this would cost you about $50 a week and that in my case, you would get about 30-45 minutes before I run out the door. In order to meet Lynne’s requirements, for an 8 hour shift, your dog walker will have to stay there for four hours. So again, this is arbitrarily chosen that a half hour of socialization would somehow make an 8 hour shift go from unbearable to bearable. 

My dogs in particular would never care about a stranger showing up to walk them; they would want to be with their real owners. Some dogs enjoyed my presence, while others cowered in fear of me.
Regardless, while I know dogs love being with their owners and sometimes other people, I have no idea why Clive Wynne would come to the dramatic and arbitrarily chosen conclusion that it is CRUEL to subject dogs to periods of loneliness.

Most dogs sleep a good portion of the time that they are alone and will conveniently forget about the ‘trauma’ of their owner leaving if you give them a chew bone. The thing is, while unpleasant, I think they can handle it, the same way humans have to handle things they don’t like, like working so that their pets can eat. Wynne may want to refrain from making claims that only a teeny percentage of people should own dogs based on no evidence, especially considering the ramifications for shelters dogs who would love to be treated ‘cruelly’ and find a home.

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