To start the New Year, let’s start by setting out our expectations. Our last post New Year’s Pet Resolution discusses planning out what you are your pet want to work towards this year. But it is also important to remember that this is personal to you and your dog. You might think it’s strange for a professional dog trainer, behaviourist and veterinary surgeon to say “my dog isn’t perfect and that’s ok” but that’s exactly what we’re saying! About both of our dogs, actually. And that’s because there is no such thing as “the perfect dog”.
The perfect dog
Each family has different requirements. Things they need their dog to cope with and also things it’s unlikely that their dog will ever have to deal with. And so there is never one dog that would fit perfectly into every household. We also have dogs with varying drive. You might have a dog who has a high digging drive or herding drive (not always the breeds you might expect!). Whereas some people will need to do much more work with their dogs than others will. Genetics and experiences hugely influence behaviour throughout a dog’s life. So again, this will vary the amount of work and areas in which you need to focus on.
You might love the fact that your dog jumps up and goes mad every time someone comes home. As long as your dog is happy and not worried this isn’t a problem. Whereas someone else might want their dog never to jump up at people. Both of these options are absolutely fine, as long as you are consistent. The people who like their dog jumping up need to manage their dog around people out on walks or visitors who may not want this. And the people who want their dog to never jump up need to be strong. They need to ensure visitors and people out on walks don’t encourage this unwanted behaviour. Neither of these dogs is worse than the other, they can both be right in their respective families.
Some people may desperately need their dog not to pull on the lead. Whereas others (maybe with a smaller dog or where they are almost always free running) might not need this at all. As long as the dogs are comfortable on the lead both of these options are fine. Even though one has had more training in this aspect than the other.
What if your dog isn’t perfect?
It is also important for us not to expect too much from our dogs. Dogs are sentient, emotional beings, not robots. Not all dogs can cope with all things. As their guardians it is up to us to protect them from certain situations. Our dogs are both great around loud noises which is fantastic, but we would never expect them to cope at a fireworks display and why would they need to? So we need to have realistic expectations, with this we can have dogs who fit in well with our lives but we do not put them around stressful stimuli.
It’s easy to get down about your dog when talking to other pet guardians and focus on the area’s that they’re struggling with but remember that most people have something they want to work on with their dog too! So your dog might not be as confident in one area compared to your friend’s dog but yours may be way ahead in another aspect! It’s important to just aim to continue to improve each dog individually and for it not to become a competition.
Sit down and think about what your family wants from your dog. Is it realistic? If so – go for it! Start training but remember to avoid things that you don’t need your dog to experience!