How unreasonable expectations for your dog makes for an unhappy owner and dog
Have you always wanted a dog like Lassie, Rin tin tin or even Benji? Well I’ll tell you now, They Only Exist in the Movies or with years of training, honing skills of natural or un-natural behaviour and having a very strong and trusting bond with the dog.
It’s time to burst this big bubble that all or even certain dogs – (no matter what breed) are easy to keep, easy to train, are good with people, children, pets etc. No of course they aren’t. Every dog is a single personality, not like their mother or father, not like their litter siblings, not like anyone else. Just like humans, they all have their own personalities, foibles, likes and dis-likes, even from a very early age. Seeing the parents of a pup gives you a degree of certainty that yes they might be social, nice around people or will be healthy but that is never 100% certainty. One certainty you can guarantee 100% is the time you spend teaching your dog skills you want it to have in adult life, they will have in adult life.
If you want your dog to walk nicely by your side as you go for a relaxing walk, or run with you when you go for a jog or pull you if you want to go for a mush, you have to teach them what you want or expect of them. There’s no point in buying expensive harnesses, lines, a rig and put your dog in front, tie him to it and expect him to know that he now has to pull, where as before this you had expected him to walk nicely by your side. You train him and show him how fun this new experience is so he wants to do it again and again. We take driving lessons, guitar lessons, language lessons, tennis or football lessons or ‘practise’ so why should it be any different for your dog? If you want them to have a certain skill then you have to teach them and practise, practise, practise!
I’m not saying you can’t teach your dog to be like Lassie but don’t just expect them to be like her and By the Way… movie and tv Lassie was about 4 or 5 different dogs!
Here’s where some dogs get the short end of the stick when it comes to some people’s expectations. I have come up against people like this when I worked in rescues. The potential new owner wants a dog, ‘OK lets see what type of lifestyle you have so we can find a dog that suits’. They then proceed to tell you they work a 40+hr week, go to the pub at weekends and a couple of foreign holidays a year, don’t do much ‘outdoorsy-things’ and they want a labrador for the kids, are adamant they want one, a big, friendly one. Of course that’s no life for a big energetic dog and most people don’t want to hear that reality. You can change the breed in that story to what someone has in their heads that they want and no matter how much you tell them that they need a lot of grooming /exercise / training etc they don’t see it as a problem, they then find a dog somewhere else and a month down the line there’s a frustrated and angry owner who has no idea how to stop their beagle (any breed) from barking, chasing the neighbours cat or digging holes in the garden, eating the kids toys or going to the toilet inside the house when it lives outside. Later you find out the dog gets 1 walk a day and lives its whole life in the back yard. Sounds to me like the dog is making the best of a bad situation!
When owners call me out because of their dog’s problems they soon realise that respect, interaction, teaching and enjoying each others company is all part of being a good dog owner. I get the phrase ‘it’s a lot like having kids’ when we are in a coaching session and I totally agree. People think long and hard usually before having kids, they need a lot of love, food, clothes, schooling and that’s just the basic stuff. No-one expects their parental duties are over once the kids hit 16, there are driving lessons, college, part-time jobs, socializing, hobbies…. So why do people not think long and hard about adding a 4 legged family member to their household? There’s love, food, vaccinations, bedding, health, education and time all needed there too for the whole of their lives.
It’s time the human race started treating this loyal, patient, forgiving and highly intelligent creature with more care and respect than what it is deemed to be getting here and now in the 21st century. Dont just be a dog owner, be a GOOD dog owner. Dog’s are not an accessory, they are not a short-term phase you are going through to see if you ‘like’ this breed, they should be treated with love and value and as Clarissa Baldwin’s’ very popular adage says ‘a dog is for life not just for christmas’.
Please think wisely, don’t get a dog if you don’t have time for one, if you do have one then give it time and love and you will be wise.
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