Is it Cruel to Make a Dog Work

I think most Guide Dog owners or handlers have been accused of enslavement or cruelty to animals. I could not count on both hands the amount of times i’ve been told that using a dog to help me get around is inhumane and damn right abominable.

The first time I was confronted with this attitude was only a few months after qualifying with Bailey. This animal rights activist stopped me in the street and asked did i know how cruel I was being to my dog for making him guide me around all of the time? I will not say that it isn’t a responsibility on the dog’s shoulders but historically we have used dogs in working environments for centuries.

Sheep dogs, police dogs, military dogs, search and rescue dogs, assistance dogs, [including guide dogs but ranging from dogs for the disabled, alerting dogs, dogs for the hearing impaired], therapy dogs and the list goes on. So then why is it cruel to partner a dog in these variety of tasks and if so horrible then why do they do it?

Bailey is a cross labrador retriever and one of the characteristics of the retriever breed is stubbornness. And do not doubt that this bonny lad hasn’t exhibited this characteristic on more than one occasion. You cannot make a guide dog guide. There are dogs who have failed training for that very reason. They have to want to do it otherwise it would be impossible to get the dog to work.

One of the reasons i knew Bailey had had enough of working was that very fact. He didn’t want to guide anymore and I listened, for his sake and my safety and retired him.

I cannot speak for all working dogs but from what I have seen of training and the same need of a good human/canine unit, similar rules apply. An established partnership works together to achieve a goal whether it be finding drugs or guiding a blind person or fetching clothes from the washing machine, these dogs do their job because they want to.

the very nature of the domestic dog makes it possible to have them work alongside us. They are willing to please and loyal creatures in varying degrees.

If anyone thinks my Bailey was ever cruelly treated, they should really spend a day with us and see. Even when he was a working guide, he had toys, beds all over the house, access to water whether he was upstairs or downstairs, regularly groomed and immediately taken to the vets upon any worries. Even today, as we were out walking the pooch, he pulled on his lead which he sometimes does now to indicate he wants to spend but oh no, mum says, “he’s eating something” which I reflexively dived my hand into his jaws and whipped out the disgusting contents of an animal theses . He was reprimanded and put on a short lead and sent to bed when we got home but as soon as I felt he’d been punished enough, he was cuddled and loved again.

Tonight, I was playing with him happily on the rug with his toy where he got kisses and cuddles and a big tummy rub.

I know we ask so much of the dogs but then what they are given in return is what some pet dogs would never get. The breeds we tend to use for working dogs, are the types that need the exercise or brain power. You may think dogs are dumb creatures but believe me, they are far from it. A disruptive dog is usually a bored dog so in giving these wonderful four legged pals of ours the chance to work and use their brains, we’re doing them a service and giving them a happier and more fulfilled life.

I would bet more working dogs are happier than those dogs shut up on the couch all day with nothing to do. I bet there is some scientific proof to support that.

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