The Dog Delusion

Richard Dawkins wrote a bestselling book called The God Delusion.  I won’t get into that debate here, but I can talk about a sad modern-day problem:  the  ‘dog delusion’.

A delusion is a false belief which persists despite contradictory evidence.  And the dog delusion is the myth of the Perfect Dog (aka the ‘Disney Dog’).  The reason it matters is because, for those who suffer with this delusion, the reality of dog ownership can be a huge surprise.  When Lassie turns into Lawsuit,  the dog is on a one-way trip to the pound.

The Disney Dog


Sweet, loyal, always by your side. Ready to defend you with his life if needs be.  Can understand your tears and your words.  Steps in when the school bully is after you.  Even the ‘naughty’ Disney dogs, such as Marley and Beethoven, are adorable  in their naughtiness.

The Real Dog

Toilet training issues, problem barking, separation anxiety, aggression. These are serious problems, and thankfully, can often be remedied.

Unless we begin to see dogs for what they are, rather than some idealised version of themselves, people will continue to turn in their dogs to shelters when the cute puppy becomes a naughty adolescent.  Let’s stop the madness.  Be honest about your challenges with your dogs and then seek the help you need.  That way, when your naughty pooch turns into a well-trained and sociable one, you will feel like you’ve ‘earned’ him.  We don’t return naughty children to the womb , so why is it so acceptable to return a difficult dog?

Did you have any surprises when you first got your dog? How did you meet the challenge?

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5 thoughts on “The Dog Delusion

  1. […] The Dog Delusion ( […]

  2. So true! It has amazed me, volunteering at a rescue kennel, how often people do not seem to realise (despite being told, given a booklet, etc) that it is a big deal for a dog to go from the kennel to being a pet, and it may well take time and patience.
    Apart from learning by volunteering, I read tons before we got our hound and I think that helped pre-empt nasty surprises. With a 5 year old ex-racing greyhound, I was most concerned about (a) our cat (b) house training and (c) separation anxiety. I found using a crate & setting calm routines/rules right from the off really helpful. One of the sites I found great for advice was
    A lot of the info is more than breed specific.

    • Thanks for the link 🙂 I want to include more links to great sources of information on the blog, so that’s very helpful. Well, greyhounds are a case-in-point. Such beautiful, under-rated dogs – but if people do not educate themselves about the challenges you mentioned, they can be in for a rude surprise. Another thing I’ve found helpful is visiting the various dog forums online (generic ones and breed-specific ones) which are endless sources of information.

  3. 1annecasey says:

    Well said!

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