Posted by: Madeline Gabriel | August 17, 2011

When a Good Dog Is a Bad Idea

Heads Up!…I’ve moved this blog to my new website:  You can find this post and comments through mid-November here.  If you are subscribing, commenting, linking or sharing, please do so from the new website.

Today I saw a young boy of about eleven years old punching his dog to make the dog sit.  One of my kids said he saw the boy trying to ride on the dog and punching the dog again after he fell off.  The boy was also jerking the dog back and forth to make the dog run with him.  All of this while in the company of two girls of about the same age or maybe a little younger.

Apparently, he was showing off.

The dog?  A Labrador who mostly wagged from time to time as he tried to follow along with the “game.”

As yourself:  Is it good or bad for this boy’s life experience and development that he has a dog that can “take it” and still want to be with him?  Isn’t it crazy that he gets to rehearse these behaviors from a young age?  Does any young man benefit from getting to punch or choke an animal when the animal displeases him?

Tell me how this behavior develops a man to be a good husband.  A good father?

It matters not one bit that the dog seemed “okay.”  It’s about how this boy is rehearsing behavior that seems “cool” to him or that vents his frustration when things don’t go his way.

His dog’s forgiving nature is not doing anyone any favors.  Sometimes, I wish dogs bit more often and were not subject to the death sentence for defending themselves.  If all dogs were “good dogs,” like this Lab, would we have more children growing up quick to punch and hit to get their way?

I was too far away with my own (elderly) dog to intervene this time, but I’m pretty sure I’ll see them again next week at the same park.  I’m getting old enough where maybe I don’t care if other parents get pissed at me for butting in.



  1. So true, but I wish parents would teach their children how to treat/behave around dogs so there is no need for a dog to bite (this also has an infuence on a dogs behavior!)
    Maybe we can all help by starting to “spread te news” by using twitter & FB!!??

    • Yes, Lydia, you are right, of course. It’s not the dog’s job to be the parent. I think there is so much involved in the role modeling of what it means to be a “man” so that punching a dog is never seen as “cool.” Given the incidences of domestic violence and child abuse, this is a big issue!

  2. “His dog’s forgiving nature is not doing anyone any favors. Sometimes, I wish dogs bit more often and were not subject to the death sentence for defending themselves.”
    Oh I wish this too! It just drives me nuts that so many people expect dogs to put up with anything from kids. When I was growing up, if a dog snapped at you the first thing you heard was “What did you do to the dog”. People understood that dogs didn’t snap without reason. I second the previous poster’s idea that your info and ideas need to get much wider distribution. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Mary, you are right that it seemed different when we were growing up. I don’t know when the expectations shifted to thinking a dog “should” put up with anything. I get it that people WANT dogs to put up with anything but you can’t just wish that into truth. And, again, like the situation in the blog post, do we really want dogs that let you do anything to them?

  3. Good one, Madeline. Too good. I;m on the brink of tears.

  4. Another excellent post. I wonder if you could sell this article to parenting magazines or a major newspaper like the Huffington Post. This article; and your articles on magnetizing, the curse of the “good dog”, etc.; should reach millions. Instead your articles are kind of buried in your website, and I think a lot of dog owners want this info.
    Also, you end up preaching a lot to the choir at doggonesafe, whereas if you could get in a newspaper or parenting magazine you could reach ordinary, misinformed dog owners (luvers).

    • Denise – you are wonderful encouragement to me! I know a lot of this is sort of buried right now and it’s partially by design. With two kids at home (especially over the summer), I don’t have as much time as I’d like to get things going or to be available for a bigger audience. I need to get my book project completed so there’s a more complete reference for people. Parenting magazines are a target for me down the line but I feel like I need the book ready in order to be most effective. I didn’t want to wait forever for that to be done so I’m writing the blog to have SOME information out there for discussion. That way, the “choir” (so true) will at least have more information to share in their own efforts to educate. Thank you for reading!!

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