Chix-A-Lot Friday: Let’s be gentle, not judgmental

Confession time.

Mama used to walk me on a prong collar and a retractable leash. She would let me run wild, hit the end of the line, and correct myself with those icky metal prongs poking into my neck. She had no idea how to control me, and it never occurred to me that a retractable leash + prong collar combo was not a good choice. Before we went to see a quality trainer, the combo and the leash jerking that was “teaching” me how to not pull had rubbed most of the beautiful white furs off the front of my neck.

My best friend and uncle, Tex? He is from a breeder. Yep, that’s right. Mama, my grandparents, and my aunt Kareaux decided they wanted a dog 10 years ago, so they did what they knew was the best way to get a good dog — they researched breeders, found a good one, and bought a puppy. A beautiful, 8-week-old black lab from working lines named Tex.

For years and years, mama never clipped my nails. Never, ever, ever, until they were so long that they making my toes kind of squoosh to the side when I walked and ran. I didn’t like having my nails clipped, so mama didn’t clip them. It was not pretty!


Mama used to let me hike off leash illegally, even though I am not always totally reliable when she calls me. She would let me run around, eat deer poo, sniff other hikers and bark at their dogs, and then get annoyed when people gave her dirty looks or yelled at her to put me on my leash.


Mama once carelessly left me and my Tex at home together with some kongs stuffed with the yummiest snacks you can imagine, and we got into a scuffle when she was not at home, even though we are best friends. Mama not only broke the golden rule about not leaving dogs unsupervised with prized resources, but she didn’t even know about the rule.


Mama used to make broad generalizations about me and other dogs who look like me, even though she didn’t really know for sure. She would say things about how we have more jaw strength than other dogs and can’t feel pain, and say that she thought maybe I was a bait dog before she adopted me.

And yet — despite all these confessions — most people would call now mama a relatively good, responsible dog-lover. How many of us have judged her — or somebody committing one of these confessions — in the past? It’s so easy to judge another person or dog based on a snapshot — a single story, a random encounter, a bit of gossip. It’s much harder to do the humane thing and reserve judgment. We are all in different points along our journeys, and it is human — and canine — to learn at our own pace and make mistakes along the way.

So why not try a little gentleness on this fine, summer Friday?


64 responses

  1. Another “guilty as charged” mama, as well. It is very encouraging to me to hear people admit they have made mistakes. We live and learn.

  2. Mistakes can’t be corrected until we admit we’re making them… good for your mama admitting she hasn’t always been perfect….she sure has learned a lot over the years and all of us are grateful to her for sharing her knowledge so we can be responsible pet owners, too. You sure do look handsome in all of those photos….especially love you in the laundry basket!!

  3. I love this post! I have lots of guilt over the things that I did before I learned to be a more responsible doggie-owner. It’s nice to know that even your mama (someone we look up to) made mistakes. I work hard every day to be a better mom to my Harley and Dash. This is a nice reminder of the fact that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have. And a nice reminder to be gentle with people who are also in the process. Thanks for the perspective!

  4. Amen! I love this post! I too have learned how to be a better owner to Bentley along the way and have encountered (and done so myself) judgements about his behavior – especially when we first got him and he was unlearning all the bad habits his previous owner had allowed to form – like jumping for attention (because they had him tied out on a chain) or not sitting to greet friends and strangers (he wasn’t taught that early on).

    I am glad you have a mama who takes good care of you now and helps others by sharing your stories on your blog!

    P,S. Tex is quite a handsome lab – nice uncle to have! (he is a lab after all so I am a bit partial)

  5. This is a wonderful post! My sister is a new dog owner and she was telling me yesterday how she felt like a terrible person when she talked to other owners at the dog park. I’m definitely going to have to share this.

  6. Sir Chick you have a lot of wisdom to share with us. I too am guilty as charged. I believe we are all works in progress, continually learning to be better parents to our furbabies, learning from our mistakes. Thank you for making your confession to us. Have a great weekend!

  7. Live and learn, that’s what it is all about, lord knows I have made plenty of mistakes with my dogs but I have grown from those mistakes, thanks for the great post lets us all know we are not alone when it comes to mistakes with our dogs =)

  8. Handsome and wise, you’re a very special dog Sir Chick and you have a very special Mama. I too am guilty of judging others and I still make mistakes but thanks to you and several other wonderful resources I continue learning.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I hate that I sometimes jump to a conclusion or rush to judge and that I make mistakes and still beat myself up over it.

  10. When my daughter wanted a pittie I said no don’t do it they are mean. This is coming from a person who grew up with dogs. I mean my brothers and I had to take turns on who got to sleep with the dog. Anyway she got get pittie and let me tell you that dog is the most loving dog I’ve ever encountered. So I started researching and found this blog. I read all the stories about past fosters and when I got to the one about Blu I cried all day. But it changed me. I decided I would NEVER breed or buy a dog (I have two high dollar pomerians) It’s we as humans that failed all shelter and abandoned dogs. I also learned to never judge a dog because of his looks. For this I thank you Aleks. You saved more dogs than you will ever know. I commend you for putting yourself out there all for the sake of the chicks and doodlebugs that have yet to find their forever home. Thank you !!!

  11. Wait, what!?! You’re mama wasn’t perfect from the start? Well I feel much better now. πŸ™‚

    We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and yes… we all evolve and change in our own time. Dogs are the same way… my Izzy can learn a trick in 5 minutes, and my Dexter… well, it took him a month to master down (he’s a little “slow”). Everyone moves at their own pace. We respect it in dogs, why not in our fellow man?

    Being snotty or judgemental to others doesn’t help our overall cause. We should be patient and understanding. Hopefully we can lead them to the truth and help everyone to become a “perfect” dog parent.

  12. Love this post!! I saw a post once that said do not judge others as they are fighting their own battle of which you ate unaware. I try to remember that when i have cranky judgemental thoughts!

  13. Great post! I think we could all practice a little non-judgment–towards others as well as ourselves. No better day than today to start trying.

  14. Pingback: Fetching! | The Daily Dog Tag

  15. Agreee with the rest, great post! As always, of course πŸ™‚
    Also, the photo of Chick in the laundry basket…priceless!!

  16. Pingback: Fetching! | The Daily Dog Tag

  17. It goes to show how important knowledge and education is. Everyone makes mistakes but it makes you learn and become a better person. Instead of judging we should be teaching and showing. Not just with dogs but with everything in life. How can you know what’s best if you’ve never been shown? I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes in raising my dogs. But we’re learned more from each of them and have tried to better the way we do things. I think things are going pretty well πŸ˜‰

  18. I love reading the posts about your journey together. So often, I think about how I walked my dog or what I let her do, or how I corrected her and I feel such guilt. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who did things wrong from time to time and am still learning–gives me a lot more compassion on those who are at a different stage in their journey. Also, Tex and Chick make a handsome pair of friends!

  19. To be human is to error, and to learn. It is easy to do the right thing when people are looking. However, the true test is to put into action what we have learnt when know one is looking. And even harder yet is to try not to beat ourselves up over our past shortcomings. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and hopefully opening the eyes and hearts of all of us who read your posts.

  20. We all are on a learning curve. I have confessions, too. A friend once remarked as she grows older, kindness is more and more important. Yes, let’s be kind to one another.

  21. I was just about to leave an I-know-more-about-how-to-walk-dogs-than-you comment on #8 of this Apt Therapy post about how people shouldn’t talk on their phones while walking their dogs. Then I read your post here, and realized I STILL sometimes talk on the phone while walking my dog (they are some of our worst walks!). Thanks for the eye opener.

  22. We’d all like to think that we know so much about dogs and having dogs. I didn’t used to, certainly. It’s a hard thing to admit.

    It’s a good thing that dogs, all dogs, are so forgiving of we clumsy humans!

  23. I’m so glad you posted this! I am not even close to a perfect pet parent, and yet I have to check myself against being a pretentious one. There are many “right” ways to raise a dog or a kid, and in either case we’re all bound to mess up a few times along the way.

  24. Confession: I bought my dog a shock collar and put it on him at least five times before I though “Huh I wonder how much it hurts” and tested it by putting it on MY neck and “barking.” He’s never worn it again. I felt terrible and was convinced I was the worst dog mom ever. Some training for us both, patience for me and a whole lot of treats worked better and stopped the barking. Talk about a learning curve…and a really sore neck.

  25. Thank you for this post, I absolutely love it. My husband and I are working our butts off with Vince (I met you at the vet last week) but we’re not perfect. Thanks to good training, we’re learning more and more every day. It’s hard work, and we make mistakes, but we’re learning and we’re seeing a lot of progress with Vince.

    And this is a great reminder not to judge as well!

    • Hey, it was great meeting you guys at the vet’s office. Doodlebug felt like a big deal, meeting somebody who knew him from the interwebs in person! Keep up the good work with Vince. There is no substitute for that, and it can be so empowering!

  26. We all do it wrong until we learn what is right.

    You are currently a great mentor to a lot of people. That’s a pretty path, through all those dark woods, into the light of knowledge. Thank you for sharing with us!

  27. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the stupid mistakes I made with Cali, and we are so lucky that she is the great, lovable dog that she is today. I agree, everyone is doing the best that they can, with what they have . . we could all be a little more gentle and less judgmental πŸ™‚

  28. How did you teach Chick to tolerate nail clipping? My deaf girl, Rose simply goes nuts when I try to hold her paw to clip it. She watches me do Finn- I’ve been doing his nails since puppyhood. Rose is a rescue and as soon as I pick up her foot- she goes bonkers. I’ve tried hold foot- treat. I’ve tried pat foot, treat…. I’m no closer than I was a year ago.

    • We trained our dogs to shake hands for treats for a while before trying to trim their nails. Once they learned “paw”, we started holding their paws for a minute before giving them treats. They get treats everyday for just holding their paws, so the ratio of paw holding to actual trimming is really low.
      We still don’t trim their nails as short as we should because I don’t ever want to hit the quick and lose their trust.

      • THANK YOU! I will try that. Rose has been ultra-quick to learn modified ASL signs. I am eager to teach her “paw”. And yes, Finn’s nails aren’t trimmed as short as they should be… but I’ve *never* cut the quick. Trust is everything! Thank-you so much!

    • Honestly, we now use a Dremel tool. Chicks nails were so long that Thr clipper was hurting the nerves every time it squeezed the nails, so we stopped trying it. The Dremel is a rotary handheld sanding device, essentially. A lot of dogs tolerated better than the clippers, but as with everything, it takes slow desensitization to get them to accept it. Think lots of treats, and at least a few weeks to get the whole way there.

      Typed by my trained monkey. Please excuse tybos.

    • Cheryl, this is what worked for my dog: I use clippers with a nail guard so I can clip fast without worrying about the quick, and I started off doing one nail at a time. One nail, treat, wait 12 hours, another nail, treat, wait 12 hours. Then two nails at a time and then on up. We’re now up to two whole paws in one easy sitting.

    • Just take it slow. Look at Rose’s paw, give her high value food. Look longer, more food. Now actually touch her paw while you give her food. That’s enough for Day One.
      And keep going at this pace (Rose’s pace) until you are there. Her nails may take you a month to get through the first time. Rose’s quicks (the sensitive blood and nerve containing inner part) have by now grown way longer than they should be, so be careful cutting. Just cut CLOSE to the quick, often, and let it naturally wear down and shorten to a more reasonable length. There will less chance of injury or the nail splitting at a shorter length. This is a better method than just holding her down and hacking away, obviously. Think about how frightening that could be.

  29. Lovely post friend….transcends the world of dogs into all relationships. We are after all human and more alike than not alike πŸ™‚

  30. Sometimes we learn from watching others. Sometimes we learn from the mistakes we make. I’ve made plenty in my time, and will, no doubt, make plenty more. Now if we could just learn from our dogs how to be as forgiving as they are.

  31. Wow. I am reading this and realizing that it is ok to make mistakes. That seems like a logical thing that everybody would know. We were contemplating fostering but I was hesitating as honestly I am afraid. What if we don’t do a great job, what if I have problems with kenneling him. What if we don’t handle introductions right with our current dog. But maybe it’s ok to be afraid and it’s ok to make mistakes and to open your heart and do it anyway. I see everyone’s pictures of their new fosters and they all look so happy so we automatically presume there were no issues. Thank you for this!

  32. Great message. I’m guilty as charged also! I’ve learned a lot about dog behavior/issues/training along the way, and my greatest teacher was Angel, our beautiful rescued pit bull. I wish i knew then what I know now about this topic because she’d still be sharing my bed and my heart.

  33. loved this! mistakes and failures are how we learn & how we grow … I use to feed my dogs ‘grocery store food’ because I believed their advertisements, also guilty of the nails & such … it took my sweet little Jen with all of her quirky behavior issues in order for me to find a great trainer (the first two said take her back to the rescue group, she’ll never be ‘normal’, whatever that is! I never gave up & kept hunting!) — I learned so much and share that with everyone we come in contact with. each day and each year, we learn & grow together!
    thx for your beautiful posts!

  34. This post actually inspired me to stop using the prong collar and finally work on actual leash skills with my pup Eva and her martingale collar. I have been very patient and employing the stop everytime she pulls or gets to far ahead, wait for her to come back to me, and treat method. We also stop and sit and treat while other dogs pass or if rabbits are afoot. Actually had her stop and sit this morning as a fellow walker was passing to work on impulse control and we got complimented on her good behavior! Thanks Sir Chick for helping me make Eva a better pitbull ambassador!

    • Amazing, congrats!! Keep up the great work!

      Typed by my trained monkey. Please excuse tybos.

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  36. Great post, with amazing photos as always. This is so true. I’m sure when people come to my door and see my enormous black lab locked in his crate they think we’re mean, but really, who wants to be knocked over by a wagging tail? (I wouldn’t mind, but that’s besides the point).
    This is a great example of not judging a book by its cover, or a dog owner by one action. Great points, great post, love this blog!

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  38. Oh the wonderful curve of learning! Thank you for writing such a simply eloquent and beautifully illustrated bog post! Years ago when I worked at the ASPCA I kept an old picture of a dog in the back of a pick up truck. He was leashed to a cross bar hooked to the ‘live’ ring of his metal choke chain. The picture was taken from the cab of the truck, thru the back window by the driver. I was the driver. He never died from his persons stupidity, he died of cancer many years later, but he taught me more and gave me more than fits into one lifetime – I kept that picture on my desk to keep me humble, forgiving and aware when I answered the phone on the helpline. Thank you for keeping it real, and helpful. and filled with love.

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  40. Great post. Life is all about learning! Fortunately our furbabies are more patient and forgiving than a lot of humans.

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