Shaming owners to change behavior doesn’t work

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Shaming owners to change behavior doesn’t work

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I cannot believe your answer to John who “inherited” his daughter’s 115-pound Great Dane. Substitute “dumped” for inherited and “cruel” for metal cage daily. Oh yeah, that would require critical thinking on your part – instead of “pat” answers.  Why not educate these people? Don’t buy a dog you plan on leaving in a cage all the time. My heart goes out to the Great Dane living a horrible life in a cage. Probably went from a “puppy mill” breeder straight to a clueless owner and onto her clueless dad. Instead you should have asked these two morons how they would like to be left in a cage unable to do much else other than lay down or stand for most of their lives. I find both the question and your answer despicable. With contempt for your “expertise,” – Susan, via email 

Dear Susan,
I am sorry to disappoint you. We clearly have different approaches to education. It doesn’t matter whether the dog was “dumped” or “inherited;” the man was seeking advice on how to care for his new dog.

While I didn’t chastise the man (or call him names) for keeping the dog in a kennel most of the day, I did recommend he not keep his dog in a kennel anymore. I admit I could have added that kennels should be used for training and short-term management and not all day use. When it comes to educating people about animals, I have learned that if you chastise people, they tend to not listen to your advice, and the animal continues to suffer.

It’s important to educate people in a way that motivates them to do the right thing, rather than shame them for doing the wrong thing. Shaming people almost always backfires.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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