Pet adoptions famously spiked during the first year of the pandemic. After watching a couple of my friends’ dogs chase a hare, likely to its death, I got to wondering: As more people adopt, what is our responsibility as dog owners—to our fellow humans, other dogs, wildlife and our communities?
These are questions I had never pondered as an actual dog owner myself, to my current chagrin. The bar for good dog behavior in my town, admittedly, is pretty low. Dogs are all over the place! And training is, well, not a priority for most. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we as dog owners are morally remiss if we aren’t thinking about the effects our dogs have—good and bad—on others. So what does responsible and considerate dog stewardship look like?
The result of these musings was an essay and opinion piece for Outside cheekily entitled “I Was a Bad Dog Owner. Don’t Be Like Me.” At the time it was published, earlier this month, it was among the year’s most-read stories on Outside’s website. I also received a good dose of reader mail, which I always appreciate. I’m glad that it inspired people to reflect… Turns out people feel strongly about dogs!