Giving up on the perfect dog

Ok, I know this sounds grim but hear me out!

Before most people get a dog they will do tons of internet research, pure-breeds versus super-mutts, rescue versus puppy, etc. After they know what they want, they usually have an idea in their head of how that dog will be in terms of mannerisms, energy levels and temperament due to the information they've come across. Sometimes the stars will lines up and you'll get the exact dog you had in mind, but most of the time that does not happen. If that sounds familiar, that's perfectly normal. Not every golden retriever will want to cuddle 100% of the time and love everyone.


A lot of us get so hung up on the idea of what our dogs are suppose to be like that we forget that a good part of them is shaped by their environment (I'm excluding dogs with behavioral issues due to genetics since that's a whole other topic!). We, the owners, are part of that environment and therefore can change how the dog acts and reacts to the world around them!


Let that sink in for a moment. You have the power to alter how your dog perceives life and acts through it.


That's some no joke powers right there!


So what happens when a dog does not live up to the idea we have of them in our minds? What if you have a reactive Labrador, or a timid Rottweiler? A lot of people get frustrated. And I can understand why but here's the big mistake being made....you as the owner need to do something about it! If you have a timid dog then work on confidence building, if you have a reactive dog, get in touch with a trainer ASAP and get the guidance needed to find the source of the reactivity and address it properly. Owners need to be more proactive in their dog's life.


Some people will stumble on the old school trainers. Years ago that happened to me. I ended up learning from a trainer that went to aversive methods way too quickly and instead of addressing the underlying problem that caused the behavior, they had me dealing with all the consequences of it; the main one I had to deal with was being dragged on the leash. I still remember being annoyed with the trainer telling me I need to sit my dog all the frickin time! Before he eats, before he goes outside, before he gets to the car, when we get out of the car, basically my dog sat for anything we were doing. Coincidently I noticed a difference in him, he had no confidence left. He was a deflated version of himself. But I had a perfectly behaved dog so when I brought it up to the trainer they said I was on the right path and doing the right things.


WRONG!


I had without knowing it taken away all my dog's confidence. I had had enough, I was done with this crap. I wanted my loving dog back. So I scaled way back on the aversion techniques, and I noticed my dog was coming back! He was lively again, affectionate and happy! Our bond got stronger and even better, his bad habits from before did not return. I kept working hard with him but I would let him make mistakes without raising my voice with a resounding NO, I would instead set him up for success and watch him make so many right decisions in a row.


So that was the day I gave up on the perfect dog, I would rather have a dog that's happy and still showing his/her personality than one with a broken spirit but has perfect obedience! I do training sessions with my current dog where she knows that I want her heel to be in a certain position, or her down needs to be precise and immediate, stay means don't move. But for everyday life, if she's a bit excited about diner because she's hungry from extra activities then I let her stand and chow down the food as soon as her bowl touches the ground. I let her enjoy life a bit!


Please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying your dog should run wild and jump on you all the time! Basic manners are essential, there's just a better way to go about it than aversive methods where the dog listens out of fear or pain. The other interesting fact is that if you remove the aversive tool (or method) being used then the dog goes back to the behavioral issue very quickly!


So don't dominate your dog, instead enjoy having a dog in your life and enjoy their slight imperfections!

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