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8 Reasons It’s Better to Be a Dog Now than 25 Years Ago

It’s a good day to be a dog.

by Karen B. London, PhD
August 19, 2016
A man running and playing with his German Shepherd dog on a cloudy and rocky beach
Luis Herrera / Stocksy

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

One of the greatest things about being a dog is that the tendency to sit around with friends and bark about “the good old days” doesn’t exist. I like to think that for dogs, the “good old days” are happening right now. So, congratulate the pup in your household for showing up on earth at just the right time, because, compared to those dogs who lived 25 years ago, today’s dogs have many advantages.

1. The rise of positive dog training.

Coercion training has been largely replaced by kinder, gentler positive methods. While not everyone is training with modern techniques, the trend continues to gain momentum. It is more effective and better for the relationship between dogs and people to teach dogs what to do and then reinforce them for being right — with toys, treats, play or affection — than to issue commands and deliver a leash pop or a shock in response to an incorrect response.

2. Easy access to behaviorists and trainers.

It’s much easier to find a behaviorist to help you with your dog’s issues. Twenty-five years ago, it was more common to euthanize dogs for problems such as aggression, destructive chewing, or repetitive behaviors than it is today. Now, many of these concerns can be resolved by working with a qualified animal behaviorist.

3. Many more medical options.

Choices are plentiful for dogs who suffer pain due to injuries, arthritis, or other medical causes. Acupuncture, while an ancient art, is relatively new on the scene for canine pain management, and the multitude of dog massage techniques, including TTouch, means that many dogs are relieved of pain rather than living with it or suffering from the side effects of medications.

4. It’s easier to travel with dogs now.

More hotels accept dogs, and riding in the car is safer due to the use of crates and canine seat belts. Fewer dogs are left at home during family vacations and outings, and fewer are sliding around in the backs of vehicles.

5. So many leash options available.

Walking on a leash is a part of life for most dogs, and compared with 25 years ago, there are more relatively humane and effective options. It’s hard to imagine a dog who wouldn’t prefer a Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop, Halti, or SENSEation harness to the choke chains that once were common.

6. Play is considered important.

Play is widely viewed as critical for developing and maintaining good relationships between people and dogs, and as a result, more than ever, dogs are having fun with their people on a regular basis and playing with better toys. The toy options are dizzying; from Kongs and Chewbers to Dogzillas and Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys—the world of dog toys has moved well beyond balls and sticks.

7. Plenty of dog-centered activities.

Agility, flyball, herding, tracking, lure coursing, rally-O, and dog training classes as diverse as basic obedience and even tricks and games are common, as are “dog camps,” places where people and their dogs can enjoy such activities in the company of the like-minded.

8. Dogs are welcome in more places.

Many people take their dogs to work, and more shops and businesses are allowing dogs as guests. On a more fundamental level, more dogs are now living inside our homes rather than outside as before. This greater hospitality may stem from the biggest change of all over the last 25 years, which is that more than ever, dogs are now considered members of the family. The wholehearted inclusion of dogs in our families — a perspective once voiced only by the very brave or slightly quirky — has become a mainstream idea over the past quarter-century.

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karen london

Karen B. London, PhD

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.