What is a Dog Aficionado?
Recently, I was reading this book and fell in love with a term the author used: dog aficionado. I plan to employ it liberally on the blog as a way to distinguish folks who “get dogs” from those who are still learning, so figured I should first define it for my readers.
According to Pelar, dog aficionados are “dog trainers, dog behavior consultants, veterinarians, vet clinic staff, shelter workers, rescue volunteers, groomers, dog walkers, animal control officers, dog daycare staff, boarding facility employees, breeders, holistic health care providers, pet-supply store owners, pet sitters, therapy-dog handlers, puppy raisers, writers who specialize in dog topics, and many more. In short, anyone who works with dogs other than his or her own is a dog aficionado.”
She used it to distinguish us “dog people” from the general public, without specifying whether we were trainers, rescuers, advocates or just responsible owners. Being a highly-educated but completely-uncertified-in-any-way dog lover, I felt validated to be included in her definition of “dog aficionado.”
As I read on, I realized that Pelar was setting a much higher bar for dog aficionados than simply working with dogs that aren’t their own. Here are some other observations about dog aficionados:
- Dog aficionados do far more management than they realize. Just ask one to explain a dog-related task in their household. You’ll be surprised with how much thought and how many accommodations are incorporated into daily routines.
- Dog aficionados recognize that dog behavior is complex, not static, and they typically have more reasonable expectations of dogs. They do not suffer from so-called “Lassie syndrome.” They realize that dogs are individuals, that dogs have good and bad days, and that dogs need our help.
- Dog aficionados realize that a good dog-human bond is as reliant on the human’s understanding of dog behavior, communication and learning as it is on the dog’s personality and temperament. They seek to improve humans’ understanding of dogs through education.
- Dog aficionados understand canine communication, and are able to distinguish between dogs’ various emotional states, be they stress, play, fear or contentment. They are also able recognize situations in which dogs may be uncomfortable and more likely to bite. When possible, they seek to ameliorate stressful situations for dogs.
In short, dog aficionados are dog-centric in their thinking, as opposed to simply being fans of canines. They relate empathically to dogs, put themselves in their place, endeavor to understand their communications and shape their world in ways that are more hospitable to them. They do more than idealize and love dogs: they respect, admire and work for them.
So tell me, readers, do you think you’re a dog aficionado?
Here’s a little test I devised to tell whether you are a true dog aficionado or not:
Take a look at these two pictures, and take note your first reaction.
If your first reaction to either picture was “How cute!” or “How sweet!” you’re probably not a dog aficionado.
If your first reaction was “Yikes!” or “Poor dog!” or, “That dog looks uncomfortable,” then you know a thing or two about dogs, and can count yourself among the ranks of dog aficionados.