Sometimes it’s hard to think ahead in time when we’re so consumed with the present. We rarely think about all the possible future consequences of the actions we are taking right here and now. This gets many dog owners in trouble though.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You just got that cute new puppy – let’s say a Lab – which you’ve wanted for as long as you can remember. He came fully loaded with all the puppy standards: eyes that can melt your heart, soft fur that you can’t stop touching and a playful curiosity that makes you giggle. He’s adorable and you are enamored by him.
His uber-cuteness also makes you downplay or totally ignore some annoying behaviors, like jumping up excitedly on your legs (awwww, he just happy to see you), stealing the dish towel and then playing a high speed game of keep away (he such a mischievous little guy), and following you around the house every single minute (‘cuz he just loves you soooo much). As a puppy it’s kind of easy to look the other way at these events but you should really consider that everything your dog does is shaping future behavior patterns.
What is cute or acceptable today can turn into a real problem as the dog gets older and bigger. Soon your cute little bundle of joy will be a full grown adult dog. For large breed dogs that playful jumping up on you could be a very big issue whenever you want to have a guest over that don’t like being violated by a slobbering pooch. Or when, for the fifth time today, he’s shredded one of your towels. Or when you can never leave him alone because he’s developed severe separation anxiety.
Now those cute puppy things have become adult dog behavior problems that could seriously jeopardize your life together. It’s not just for big dogs either, little dogs can learn some very annoying and unpleasant behaviors if we enable them to do so, and they can become bad enough where you might consider getting rid of your dog.
All of this is very avoidable if you think ahead and always see the big picture. Remember everything with dogs is repetition and consistency. Every time your dog does something (good or bad) it increases the likelihood that he will do it again. Try your best to look outside your immediate situation and really think about what behaviors you want to encourage.
As you may know I have a pit bull that I adopted ten years ago when I was single. I’m a pretty big, active guy and I could have easily played rough games with Hayley, wrestling on the floor and letting her mouth me, but I didn’t. Even though I never thought anyone would put up with me enough to marry me, let alone have kids with me, I made sure I taught very respectful playing. Fast forward eight years and not only did I find someone willing to marry me but I have twin girls who are now mobile and causing all sorts of havoc. I worry about many things with my daughters but I never have to worry about Hayley. Because I had taught her such great, structured rules about play she interacts with my girls perfectly.
Take a look at your dog’s current behaviors and try to look at possible future outcomes. It’s much easier to teach some rules now than try to change them later on.