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K9 Corner, Jan. 24

By HELEN PALMER

Contributing columnist

Unfortunately there is a lot of prestige about being able to say, “My dog is AKC (American Kennel Club) registered,” even more if one could add, “AKC champion.” While these titles show the breeding of the animal, the most important title a dog can have is “Pet.”

Why is a pet dog more important than any other title? Simple. A pet means that the animal has been socialized with the family. A pet knows where its place is in the family group and the family accepts the pet as a member.

Contrast this with the dog kept as a status symbol. This poor animal is usually confined in the yard. It usually doesn’t see its owners except when they feed and provide water.  Maybe it gets a toy to pass the long day, often it doesn’t. This animal may be AKC registered, but it isn’t a pet. Brought into the house, or even allowed loose when the family members are in the yard, this dog will do one of two things: One, it may race around in wild abandon that it is finally accepted into the pack. It does not realize that its delight will cause it to lose the privilege of being with the family. The other reaction an isolated dog may exhibit is fear. Not knowing its owners very well, it may cringe, lie down, or even crawl on its belly toward them. This is not a pet, a family member.

Observe the breeding stock at many kennels.  Very few breeders with large kennels have the time to allow the animals to be with the family, there are just too many dogs and pups. Some people try by taking individual dogs into the house for a day or two at a time.      

Dogs boarded with a handler and shown nearly every weekend, are like children in boarding school. Each day is regimented with grooming, road work for good muscle tone and possible ring training to get the best gait and pose. A professional handler often takes eight to 14 dogs at a time. The time spent grooming, cleaning the pens, and preparing for the shows, leaves very little playtime with each animal. Some handlers are better than others in trying to keep the dogs socialized, but these are not pets because they have no permanent pack.

When they are returned to their owners they have to make the same adjustment that adopted dogs cope with. If they are lucky, the owners will spend the necessary time to socialize them so they can be pets.

 The sad fact is that dog owners put their pets down when they say, “I just have a pet.” Each and every dog should be a pet first whether it is a mutt, a registered breed, or even a show dog. A pet dog is the most important title a dog can have, but the owners have to accept the animal as a family member first.