Are you a toxic pet parent? Here’s how you can stop being one
“Why don’t you shut up,” Raj snapped, clutching his Rottweiler by the neck, nearly choking him. The trigger that had suddenly turned him into a toxic pet parent? I do not know. Nothing could justify his reaction: no one had been bitten, there had been no real damage in the house and his dog had just barked once.
I didn’t intervene or ask why he behaved that way. He was just a stranger I had met on the internet and I had no real say in how he behaved with his pet. But it’s a visual that has since influenced the way I myself behave around dogs and colored my opinion of how other pet owners treat the animals in their care.
“In the Indian context, any aggression often goes unnoticed,” says Mallika, a parent dog of nine indies at his farm off the Mumbai-Pune highway, which also serves as a makeshift veterinary shelter for animals injured during environmental tragedies. “Any conversation around healthy behavior with our pets must first begin by acknowledging that it is inaccurate for us to claim to have a fully functioning relationship with our pets, no matter how much we love them. Just like how no child can honestly claim that their parents were always perfect for them.
The internet is full of videos of traumatized cats wincing as a rescuer tries to bandage their wounds; dogs that stop wagging their tails and retreat into a shell as soon as they encounter their abusive human parent; animals that cannot seem to walk straight on smooth surfaces because they are crushed under the weight of their own weight.
To understand the often overlooked world of toxicity we live in with our pets and how we can work to fix it, vogue India spoke to an animal behaviorist and dog parents who learned the hard way about their abusive behaviors.
1. Pets always need care, no matter how old they are
Aaron D’silva, a Mumbai-based pet behaviorist, says pet owners often come to assume that animals don’t need special care after they grow up. Even hugs, kisses and selfies fade after our pets get old. “Pets still need our care, and it’s very negligent of us to take their health for granted and assume they can take care of themselves after a certain age,” he says. .
2. Always do therapy before adopting a pet
D’silva says pet owners often end up venting all the stress of work and family onto their pets, often unaware that they’re projecting their own anxieties onto them. “The majority of pet owners don’t even realize what’s going on and then think the animal is at fault, which is wrong,” he explains. “Animals feed only on the emotions of their owners and behave accordingly. If the animal’s parent is stressed, the animal reacts in a way that could be unpleasant.