Profile of the owner

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Potential owners need to give all these matters due consideration before taking their decision. They also need to think about what type of owner they would be. There are many different ways to classify owners. The four main types are described here:

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- The humanist, who takes a lively interest in companion animals and forms a strong emotional attachment to them.

- The moralist, who is mainly concerned with how well animals are treated and responds violently to animal cruelty and exploitation.

- The utilitarian, who is especially concerned with the animal’s material and practical value.

- The negativist, who rejects animals based on fear and disgust.

This classification may appear somewhat technical and cursory, but there is an alternative system that draws on a more detailed analysis of human typology which was designed following an international survey by a private company active in the companion animal sector. It is based on two concepts:

- Animal as object: the dog may have a purely material function or it may be regarded as a means for people to achieve an ideal.

- animal-socialisateur : le chien permet dans ce cas à l’homme de s’affirmer ou lui assure une certaine intégration sociale.

- Animal as socialiser: the dog enables people to assert themselves or integrate into society to some degree.

Eight groups were defined on the basis of the dog itself: “clown”, “old companion”, “fashion item”, “children’s friend”, “property protector”, “nature-lover”, “clear conscience” and “symbol of established order”

In a less colourful but more realistic survey, owners were grouped according to how they behaved towards their dog, ranging from rational to emotional. The results were as follows:

- 15% of owners said they were totally indifferent to the current and future life of their dog.

- 18% said they considered only their dog’s health, which they felt was the key concern.

- 18% said they loved their dog and felt a greater emotional attachment to it than to people.

- 15% said dogs served only a strictly utilitarian purpose.

- 14% said they loved their dog as much as any member of their family.

- 12% said their dog was an important factor in their self-esteem.

- 8% said dogs had their place in the family and deserved good health, but should not be treated as humans.

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18% said they loved their dog and felt a greater emotional attachment to it than to people.

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This survey shows that more than one in three owners classify themselves as either hyper-rational or ultra-emotional when it comes to how they view their dog. In reality, the attitudes of a good owner to their dog should be somewhere in the middle.

Owners should take on board the rules of behaviour, hygiene, lifestyle, nutrition, good health and respect for the animal in its natural role. A dog is not a little person. It cannot speak, but nature has given it other ways of expressing itself which are just as effective. It is up to humans to behave in a way that dogs understand, rather than treating them like children. People who understand that life on earth is better because of the diversity of animal species will enjoy their dog for what it is without feeling a need to force a human character upon it.

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Must we be the absolute masters of our dogs?

We owners, trainers and veterinarians have long taken for granted that the canine social structure was based on strict domination. Relatively recent studies show that we were wrong and claim, in the face of new data, that the capacity of “prediction based on experience” brings real cohesion to the wild dog pack.

Away from the world of science, in the animal’s day-to-day life, this is expressed in the fact that commands – which many say serve to subjugate our dog – do not really subjugate it but function as keys to a better understanding of what human society, its “pack”, expects of it and what it can expect in return.

Our companion animal will take on these common keys or norms with a view to avoiding continuous conflict with the individuals it lives with, thus enhancing its emotional stability and feeling of well-being.

Astorga

Javier Astorga,
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Specialist in Clinical Aetiology
(Spain)

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What would man be without the dog?

What would man be without the dog? One dare not think. The dog being the friend of man, man would have no friend? The blind man would grope in vain at the edge of a street to cross, the traveller would perish in the snow on the slopes of Mount Saint Bernard, without having drunk the rum of the Good Fathers; we would no longer see the Water Spaniel in the circus playing dominoes, reading the newspaper, and counting to twelve; young children, disorientated, would be obliged to attach pans to the tail of a royal tiger; poor cousins would shamelessly enter the villa of their rich cousin. There would be no more healthy distraction, tranquillity, police, pleasantry, friendship.

Alexandre Vialette,
Chronicle of the Dog,
From Thus Allah is Great,
Ed. Julliard, Paris

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The death of a dog

Generally, dogs do not live as long as humans, so owners need to prepare themselves for the inevitable tears that will come, not least among the children in a family.

In the best-case scenario death will be quick, but sometimes, in the case of a long and painful illness, you may have to summon the courage to end your dog’s suffering by having it put it to sleep.

The relevant authorities should be informed of the death of dogs registered in a stud book.

Dogs with a market value over and above the priceless sentimental value they have for their owners – such as show or assistance dogs – may in certain circumstances be insured.

It is obviously against the law to dump a dead dog in a public place or in the bin. Owners have several options to choose from, based on their convictions and what they can afford.

The dog can be buried in the garden, although it is a good idea to contact the relevant authorities for their advice in connection with public health.

Animal cemeteries are another option. These facilities are becoming more widespread in some countries. Prices can vary significantly, as do the services provided, from cement and marble tombstones to vaults and full-blown monuments. One of the most opulent animal cemeteries is on Île des Ravageurs in France, a listed site that accommodates more than 100,000 dogs (over 40,000 graves) including the famous film star dog Rin Tin Tin and Barry, the legendary assistance dog from the Great Saint-Bernard monastery.

• Generally the body will be taken to a veterinary surgery for collection by and cremation at a pet crematorium.

• Where individual cremation has been arranged, owners can ask for the ashes to be returned.

While it is perhaps only natural to grieve for a companion dog when it passes away, everyone has their own way of getting over their loss without going to extremes by putting up a monument.

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Profile of the owner
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