Most people call me because they want to change one, some or all of their dog’s behavior. Often it’s a problem that they in fact created (usually inadvertently) which can be corrected, or at least improved upon, with a little knowledge and time. Once they have gotten to the point to pick up the phone and make the call to me, they are eager for help and are mentally ready to do whatever it takes to solve the issue. And when my clients are motivated in this way it usually means that they will succeed to improve their situation.
To a dog trainer, there’s nothing better than a very motivated and compliant client. Sometimes though, that same motivation can be a hindrance.
When I first adopted my dog Hayley I had great visions of hanging out with the local dog community, watching Hayley romp and play with other dogs while I hung out and chatted with my fellow dog people. Upon bringing her home, my dreams came true as I discovered a bunch of locals who all met at a park every morning and let their dogs off leash to play (this was before there were any dog parks in the area).
For a few months it was great fun, but then Hayley hit adolescence and everything changed. She began asserting herself in play and soon I had to pull her off her doggie buddies before things got out of hand. I was always able to break things up before they got serious, but it was very concerning.
I had a big decision to make. Do I continue to put Hayley in that position just because I still wanted to enjoy the mornings with my dog friendly amigos? After a long conversation with myself I came to the conclusion that it would not be in Hayley’s best interest to continue to allow her to play off leash with other dogs. I was sad because I really had a blast hanging out with my new friends, watching the dogs have such a great time, but ultimately I had to do what was best for Hayley.
I find that many people have a hard time letting go of the dog they’ve created in their head. Before anyone gets a dog they play detailed movies in their mind of all the things they will do with their new dog, and it becomes a blunt shock when those movies don’t turn out exactly as imagined.
Just like people are different, with different likes and dislikes, so it is with dogs. You may want a dog that sits on your lap for hours a day and sleeps under the covers with you, but the reality is you may have a dog that prefers to sleep in his own bed and is not terribly affectionate. And that’s okay.
Just love your dog for who he is, without trying to force him into the mold of the dog in your head. Enjoy the things you can do with your dog instead of forcibly trying to make the dog into something he’s not. This is especially true of dogs that come with some behavior issues. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may not be able to completely solve the problem.
Don’t hesitate to try to train your dog, but be realistic and be willing to accept your dog for who he is. Every dog is special. Love your dog for the things that make him unique and try not to hold unrealistic expectations of him for things that are not in his personality.