Buddhism and pets

As an animal lover and proud ‘owner’ of 2 dogs (I don’t really own them, I just love them and take care of them), my affection for my pets (AND the affection they give me) has helped me go through the difficult period of lockdown and isolation. I also read that some people think of pets when practicing metta meditation.
On the other hand I heard that in Thailand, a Buddhist country, dogs are considered lowly beings and apparently calling someone a dog is a really bad insult.
So do EBT have anything to say about pets? Would the Buddha recommend having pets or practicing metta for them? (I read about the metta practice towards pets from a contemporary teacher, not the Buddha).
Also, monastics are not allowed to have physical contact with humans, but are they allowed to have physical contact with pets (in other words, is such contact considered wholesome and praise worthy)? For example this video shows how much affection a pet can give you, which can be therapeutic. Is this kind of contact to simply give affection to be encouraged?

One of the reasons I am asking this, is also because I would like to know whether dogs are allowed in monasteries or encouraged to live there.
I am thinking of adopting a new dog, but due to health reasons I do not know whether I will be able to look after her for the whole of her life. So having a dog when you are not reasonably sure that you will be able to care for her is a bit selfish. Unless I can make sure beforehand that I find somewhere very wholesome like a monastery where I could leave her (and my other 2 dogs) in case I am no longer able to care for them.

Dear Irene,

Your question is not a simple one to answer. It depends…

It depends on what your goals are in practice. If one wishes to develop sila and metta, then the care of other beings is a wonderful thing to do - animal or human :slight_smile:

If one is working on mindfulness of the arising and passing of feelings, thoughts and perceptions, then interactions with all beings are grist to the mill.

If one is working on relinquishment of Self view, of craving and desire, then it probably isn’t the best thing to take on responsibilities that involve intense pleasure or that are likely to develop strong attachments to beings…

So there is no right or wrong here… I can’t point to specific suttas that illustrate these points, but rather it is throughout the suttas and the very nature of the gradual nature of the path.

So it is wholly up to you how you choose to proceed :slight_smile:

There is no right or wrong, just that ‘This choice leads to this consequence or That choice leads to that consequence’.

Ultimately, with the relinquishment of self, of attachment, of desire, all of the questions you ask just disappear - because the interaction of causes and conditions just places you in situations, and you do your best to make wise choices in those circumstances.

Ajahn Brahm once told me that ‘the decision is just a little part of it… you just decide, and then you do your best to make it work’ :slight_smile: Outcomes are wholly out of your control :slight_smile: You could run debates in your head forever, about what the best option is - but, in most cases it will turn out differently to what you expect anyway. Once the decision is made, you do your best in the small daily interactions, coming from a place of kindness, and that is all that you can do :slight_smile:

I hope that this is of some small use to you .

With Metta and Karuna :dharmawheel: :revolving_hearts: :sunflower:


@irene :slight_smile:

I re-read my answer to you above, and realised it was probably not that useful, or at least not as balanced as it could be. I sometimes get a bit too focused on practice :rofl: :slight_smile:

If you take joy in your animals (as indeed do I), then that is fantastic. :sparkling_heart:

I recently took on an abandoned dog too - in the same situation - not knowing or being able to guarantee being here to look after it for the rest of his life…

Who knows, the dog could die of illness in 2 months? Or I might… the future is unsure. But by building the stock of kindness and connection, the chances are that your dog/s wil be well looked after if you can’t do it.

It may not be by a monastery, but by some completely unknown person/family… you just can’t know.

If it will bring you pleasure, and you will do your best, it will be ok… You can’t do anymore than that :slight_smile: So no need to take responsibility for the ‘impossible to determine’ future… Its not being selfish, it’s being realistic…

:pray: :slight_smile: :sunflower:


thank you! this has been really helpful. Your sentence ‘Its not being selfish, it’s being realistic…’ makes me feel much much better, I feel that it is what I needed :heart: :heart: :heart:

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Monasteries in Thailand, be it in city or in rural areas usually have cats and dogs around and those are certainly object of care and love by monks and lay disciples alike.
You don’t have in Buddhist texts any support to mistreat or disregard the welfare of those beings.