A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Instagram

There are 8.5 million dogs in the UK, and nothing would make me happier than being able to pet every single one. Since that’s highly improbable, I resort to Instagram (much like many of you probably do too).

Personally, it would be my dream for every single one of those 8.5 million dogs to be golden retrievers, but variety is the spice of life. I’m going to take this moment to drop some of those whom I love - Waffles, Sporty and Bucky make a top three. None of them match up to my childhood hero, Digby (in the headline image).

But I’m getting distracted! These dogs, amongst many more perfect pooches that I follow show a healthy balance between being a conscientious dog owner and simply sharing the love they have for them.

However, there are several examples of dogs living a primarily photographed life. Not one of enjoyment, but a manufactured one - never truly receiving the genuine love a dog deserves, as the owner longingly looks at the ever-growing list of likes on the notifications screen.

And even worse, this culture is advocated to a wider audience. Many social media blogs that provide advice on getting the best out of each platform (spoiler alert: consistency and community engagement) are beginning to connect the dots between pets and increased engagement. One rather clinical sounding piece completely throws out the love of a good pet in favour of statistics.

Not only is this obsessive observation of your dog’s behaviour and utilitarian view of a good boy (or girl) a rather exploitative way to treat them, but it’s also not suitable to their behavioural pattern. Too much stimulation beyond their need for rest causes a dog to get agitated and bite, which is a all-too-regularly seen behaviour seen amongst dogs with Instagram-centric owners.

Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I want to do is condemn the constant stream of golden retrievers pumped through my Instagram feed. In many situations, it’s what keeps me going through the more testing days of my life.

But this perpetuated culture of using a pet to create engaging content - vicariously using this majestic creature as a brand influencer - is surely changing an owner’s behaviour towards him/her.  No longer are you paying genuine attention to your pupper, but you’re waiting in baited breath for the next post-worthy activity.

Actually take the time to love (and hate) your precious pooch, rather than constantly seeking moments “for the gram.”

This is not an accusation of animal cruelty, as that would be ridiculous. Simply, this is a request to move the camera out the way between you and your pet. Remove the lens and actually learn to love.

And, just for good measure, here's another picture of Digby.