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Posted on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Is the fun trend of dog shaming a stark illustration of their inadequate lives?

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo by followtheseinstructions

It’s likely that you’ve seen the images of pets who have engaged in naughty behavior float across online articles and Facebook posts, coined "pet shaming". Admittedly, as someone who shares life with pets, I find the situations relatable and even funny. Let’s face it, pets are going to get into trouble now and then and there are no perfect pets. We’ve all got stories.

But the images in some cases illustrate a telling picture: Pets that live an inadequate life.

Am I taking this tongue-in-cheek display of naughtiness a little too seriously? Perhaps not.

The truth is there are some animals that don’t get enough time, attention and training. There are a lot of them.

My mantra has always been, “Spend half as much money and twice as much time.”

Sure there are a lot of great toys and tools on the market geared toward pets, whether they are dogs, cats, birds or other species. But, they cannot be a substitute for the human factor.

We have made these animals participants in our world: A lifestyle of long work hours, busy schedules, along with unsuitable routines — and let's not forget expectations that are too high on our end — pets often get to stare at four walls with little in the way of outlets. Some of the outcomes that we see when we view the images with captions on sites like Pet Shaming and Shame Your Pet are just part of life when you live with a pet, others are simply the result of living with a young pet, but those kinds of things are not my beef, and I will admit that they are funny. But, over and over, troubling messages — almost always involving adult canines — are a clear result of the shortcomings of the human or a serious behavioral issue.

“I eat trash, repeatedly.” says one dog’s caption.

“When I’m left home alone, I destroy the house.” (This is a common one.)

“This dog eats chairs.”

“I bark at everything.”

These are distressing, to say the least.

Beyond being unwanted behaviors, most of these activities are dangerous and need to be addressed, not laughed off. They are indicative of lack of things in a pet’s life, usually supervision or enrichment — maybe both. Even a medical condition can cause pets to behave badly, so it’s wise to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any illnesses or hidden injuries.

Sadly, behavioral problems are cited one of the leading causes of relinquishment, re-homing and even euthanasia of a companion animal.

The good news is that sort of thing doesn’t have to happen. With the right enrichment, positive reinforcement training and a routine that suits the pet’s needs, behaviors can be avoided altogether, or corrected.

Employing the use of a crate to manage unwanted behaviors, and keeping things that are off-limits — like the garbage can — out of reach are easy ways to help have more good days.

In an age when it’s tempting to look to television shows to learn how to most effectively address a dog’s unwanted behavior, here’s some advice: just don’t. There are wonderful canine professionals in your own area that can help get things on the right track.

Not sure how to choose a behaviorist or dog trainer? Click here to learn how to become more empowered on how to do so.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and is a professional pet sitter.Connect with her on Google + or e-mail her directly.



Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Some of the posts are pretty funny, but there are some that are really concerning. Posts about dogs eating socks and underwear and then vomiting them up a couple of days later always worry me. They don't always come up and more than one dog has been lost to foreign bodies. So many of the posts are dogs clearly in need of time and attention. And then there was the post of the poodle and her litter of puppies with the message "I got away from my mom for 2 minutes before she had me spayed and look what I did!" Um, no. Not funny. And she was away for more than 2 minutes if she managed to get pregnant. All in all, I find it pretty painful to see most of the posts.


Sun, Sep 30, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

Just yesterday I received a "Hall of Doggy Shame" e-mail containing about 10 pictures of dogs with hand-written signs stating "I eat garbage", or "I like a tasty mattress", or "Two words: Green marker". I had two immediate impulses: 1) rewrite the signs to the effect of "My owners don't spend enough time with me", or "my owners haven't learned to put their valuable credit cards in a safe place", etc. and hit "reply all". 2) while most of the situations are funny (I have one of my own involving my dog and the weekly New Yorker magazine) I can't help but wonder how many dog owners are not taking responsibility for their dog's behavior.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

I have to agree with this. During the summer our two dogs are with us 24 7. During the year and school? Not so much. We try to keep up but at times it is impossible. Just glad the weather is cooler so they can go car rides whenever possible.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I am a dog lover and owner and the only thing "distressing" is ridiculous articles like this. Once again a sad, humorless person has taken something that is truly harmless and tried to twisht it into a terrible thing. Unless your dog regularly surfs the internet and may come across an embarrassing photo of itself, this is a "victimless crime". The "pet shaming" photos that I have seen are nothing more than photos of dogs with the evidence of their mistake looking like they realize THEIR mistake. They are funny. I know is trying to fill pages, but this is a waste of cyberspace. Stop trying to think up petty things for you to complain about in your silly writings. There are more serious things for you to worry about. Just out of curiosity, what are your formal credentials that allow you to call yourself a "professional pet sitter".

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

jackson72: It seems as though that you've missed the point of this post. I do value the fact that you felt strongly enough to comment, though. That in itself does indicate that you indeed are an dog lover. :) Thanks for chiming in!

Claudia Robbins

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

I cannot agree more. If you are going to adopt a dog, you need to take the responsibility of training your dog. I think Dog Shaming, though, works as a kind of "stress relief" therapy for some dog owners (they get to show the world what their dogs have done to them and their households but the dogs don't actually surf the Internet). For some others there is this need of being funny, being recognized as being funny and even admired by the dogs they have. If they are not putting the time required to train their dogs, at least they can be "proud" of having the worst-behaved dog. Claudia Robbins at My Beagle Training (

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Claudia: I did interject in my post that yes, there is a seriously funny side to pet shaming. But there are definite indicators that judging from some of the signs that you see in the photos, that the behavior is a real problem and in most cases can be addressed with some of the things that I mentioned. These real indicators are not funny by any means.

Cathy Theisen DVM

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

I love the sentence spend more time and less money. The thing your dog NEEDS is walking, you playing, you snuggling, you training......

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Cathy: Indeed. You can do a lot with very little... but that eye contact, verbal communication, interaction and of course physical stuff like snuggling is vital! Thanks for emphasizing that!


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Oy! I couldn't have said it better (no, really, I'm not good at constructing full paragraphs). When people ask about my well-behaved dog, I reply, "he's tired" and, "I spend a lot of time working with him". I see dogs that are cooped up in the same yard, day after day, barking at anything and everything that goes by. This behavior could be changed with the help of a good behaviorist. The cost is outweighed by the benefits. Quieter, happier dogs who aren't victims to the impulse to bark. And, I'd like to add: turn off the mobile device and get involved in quality doggy time.

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

RunsWithScissors: Well said. I appreciate your two-cents!