Everyone is Hard on Their Own Dog

dog training

Everyone is Hard on Their Own Dog

dogs playing poker
by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, 1903
As a dog trainer I see it time and time again- "My dog is terrible."  "He or she needs a whole lot of help."  "Scooby is hopeless." Maybe he or she does need help- some of that is going to include a heart to heart on appreciating your dog.  I always tell my clients that Dog has an inherent survival need hardwired into their brains.  30,000 years ago (or 14,000 depending on which research camp you plant your proverbial flag in)  if Dog displeased Caveman, Caveman might just cook and eat Dog rather than keeping Dog around as a friend.  As we molded and shaped Dog into our (perfect? eh...) companion over thousands of years, this need for your approval became ingrained in their psyche.  Dogs are expert readers of human body language and emotional tells.  Think you're good at poker?  Try playing with dogs. 

Image result for underdog
By W. Watts Biggers, 1964
Trust me, my friends, your dog can tell when you're disappointed with them.  Day in and day out, if you are frustrated with them, it will wear on their doggy psyches and their proverbial heroic capes will go flat.  Dogs tend to be very type-A in that they need regular achievements and praise.  They crave that approval for a job well done.  When you're constantly dismayed with their behavior, it breeds anxiety.  Instead of being irritated that Bowser did not sit perfectly straight, teach Bowser how to do so.  If you don't know how to teach your dog then hire a dog trainer (shameless self promotion here).  If you do not show your dog what you want, he or she will be left with deciding how to act.  And dogs can be very creative when left wide open to choose all their own behaviors.  It's a like a fun surprise...kinda like that surprise that Coco left in your slippers last night.

I am now going to tell you a secret...Shhh don't tell anyone....but even the dog trainer's dog is not perfect.  Hell, the dog trainer's dog is often a big whopping jerk.  Fluffy did not sit immediately?  Fido still tinkles in the house occasionally?  Try having your service dog take a flying leap, stealing the pizza off of your plate, in the middle of your lecture to the Wounded Warrior Project as an expert dog trainer ABOUT SERVICE DOGS.   Yeah, not a shining moment in our career.  Well, not for me anyway,  Whuffo (that's my fur child) got to chow down on some cheesy delight.  In his dog mind, he got a lot of attention (in laughter) AND a lovely, greasy piece of heaven.  Fabulous. (*dog trainer smacks forehead*).  

Embarrassing as that was, it made a great segue into teaching about how not all service dogs have the same personality, and choosing one that suits you.  Because despite all his food thieving, guilty marking, butt-headed ways, Whuffo is still my hero.  That hard-wired people-pleaser-need's hidden somewhere in the depths of his thick skull, I am sure of it.  We will find it someday.

shameless dog
Ok maybe that dog has no inherent pleaser instincts
(just kidding he's actually making a placating face)
The point is everyone is harder on their own dog because he or she is your dog.  They look enviously at those prim Shelties at obedience club who outshine all the rest with their perfect heels, square sits, and practiced poise.  Here's another secret:  even those perfect dogs are not always perfect.  I watched a Border Collie, who was normally flawless in his performance, crash through an agility course, smash through the the fence dividing the separate dog classes, and proceed to snarf all the treat targets for the other dogs left on the ground.  Then he hiked his leg on the tunnel...twice. See?  Even perfect dogs have their not so perfect moments.

There's two lessons in this post.  The first is to hone your own skills at teaching your dog what you really want to see out of them (or hire someone to help you help them...).  The second is to appreciate your dog for what he or she is at the moment, because perfect or not, they are yours.  Who is to say the couch licking, cat turd snarfing, 3 am howling, drywall smashing, baseboard munching monster is not in fact an angel in disguise, here to teach us how to be better dog owners, and by default, better people?  Our dogs may not be perfect, but they are perfect for us.

Sammy the Dog Trainer


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