Even for the best intentioned, it’s easy to forget that pets have wants, opinions, and oppositions as we habitually make decisions for them. We decide when and what they eat, when they go out and come back in, where they sleep, where they travel, how and when they exercise, and with whom and how often they interact. After all, the decisions we make for our pets are to ensure that their needs are well met. We establish routines to offer them predictability. We set boundaries to teach them sociability. And, we “puppy proof” to keep them safe. All good things, right?
At what point however does the line between best intentions and personal convenience become blurred? Might we be limiting our pets’ ability to develop intellect and experience fulfillment with our lack of perception, spontaneity, liberty, and engagement? And, how do we know when we are too liberal, spontaneous, and doting?
I believe a good balance is possible when we consciously decide to recognize (as we do with children) that their wants, opinions, and oppositions may not always align with ours. As their guardians, we must recognize opportunities to safely offer them the ability to choose even when these choices are not what we want. We can decide to be more aware of when the parameters we set are necessary and when these parameters can be loosened in order to allow our companions to experience the exhilaration of freedom and choice.
I encourage readers to comment with ways their pets’ lives have been safely enriched through the offering of liberties and opportunities. My hope is that enriched relationships between people and their family pets can be nurtured through interactions characterized by keen observation, empathy, and reciprocity.