Meet the Best Dog Ever; and Why That is Such a Dangerous Misconception
Okay, okay everyone thinks they have the best dog ever and no one is wrong… but I am pretty certain she lives at my house.
Those of you who have taken my classes in the past (Companion Dog Program, Puppy Programming, Aggression Course, videos from my trick manual, and soon to make an appearance in our Fear Program) will recognize her.
She is the current love of my life! But I have high standards.
I have lived with A LOT of dogs! From dogs that I have boarded and trained to Service Dogs for the disabled, to all the dogs I have owned in the past 40 years.
And, I have had a great bond with all my dogs… but not all of them were “perfect”.
Okay, no dog is “PERFECT” and no person is perfect either for that matter. In fact, I think most dogs are closer to perfect than most people.
But, I digress…
Why is She Perfect? (or near to it)
She LOVES people!
Check her out with this group of school kids
She is a social butterfly! She enjoys meeting new people and adores children. She is one of those rare specimens that actually likes a hug (although I do my best to keep people and children who don’t know her from hugging her in an attempt to educate them that most dogs don’t like hugs).
I hug her, and I allow my surrogate children to hug her when I am around.
She is Obedient
She has wonderful obedience skills.
For the most part, her desire is to please me.
Don’t get me wrong she is not “Rin Tin Tin or Lassie”, she would steal food off the floor if she thought she could ;) and she might attempt a chance at cat chasing if she thought she could get away with it (again this is what makes her not quite “perfect”).
When I was getting ready to compete in bite sports, I had nerve issues of my own. You see, I don’t like being in front of people. I am very introverted and so getting up and competing had me running for the bathroom at each competition.
So I decided we would compete in AKC sports (since they are more universally available) so that I could get over MY nerves… which were flowing down the leash to my dog.
And SHE did so well and scored so high each time we were invited to their national event! We weren’t even trying to achieve that goal!
She is a Cat Snuggler and a Raccoon Lover
She loves my cats... but that doesn't mean she wouldn't chase yours; or the neighbor cat.
She loved MY raccoon that I raised but she probably won't be running wild with the coons at night. Although I did see her actively trying to play with an opossum baby one night at 4:30
She Bites on Command
Check out how she apprehends these bad guys, with guns!
Yes, yes, you read that right! My big mushy dog is also a very well trained protection dog.
So, I can take her anywhere and not be afraid of anyone.
She takes her “protection job” very seriously and when we are in the car alone, or walking out alone; I can see she always has a watchful eye.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part she loves anyone and everyone, but if you look suspicious or yell at me; she will warn you to stay away.
And, although I travel a lot alone, and like having a dog that I know would protect me… for the most part I only use this particular skill when we are training for sport.
Most people don’t even know she has this side!
And, it is totally under my control because I have dedicated so many years, months and hours to this kind of training (which I don’t usually recommend because the training is so intense and cannot be left mid training).
Why Is All of This a Bad Thing?
So why is all this stuff bad?
Because as a dog owner, I and other dog owners have a tendency to judge all dogs by her, or their dog's attributes and actions. My last dog did... or my last dog didn't....
The last Golden I met was so sweet, this one must be too...
You see, when I talk negatively about dogs; about how not all dogs like hugs and kisses, and not all dogs like children or even being petted for that matter.
People are so busy thinking about THEIR dog that they are blind to the fact that not all dogs are like theirs.
Or they are not like the super sweet "last dog" insert breed there that they met.
You see any breed can be aggressive, and any breed can be sweet. Yes, Golden Retrievers may bite your face off, and Pit Bulls can be the sweetest most social dogs you have ever met.
Dogs are individuals, but if you don't know them it is best to treat them like a human you don't know; with conscious suspicion reading all situations. You don't think all people are "good" do you? Would you walk in a bad neighborhood alone at night with no worries?
Not all dogs like people.
In fact there is a large percentage or dogs who are fearful toward people they don’t know, totally aloof, or are even aggressive toward people they don’t know. And, sometimes the signs are easily seen until a person runs up on top of the dog.
Not all dogs like children.
Some dogs hear or see small babies and toddlers as “prey”. When a baby screams these dogs can often go from 0-60 thinking the baby is a dying prey animal and desiring to harm the baby.
Toddlers and children have notoriously bad behavior when it comes to dogs. They run, they squeal, they hit, they pull fur… when you think about it; it’s a wonder dogs like them at all!
Yes, my dogs are obedient
But that doesn’t mean all dogs are obedient. An even an obedient “looking” dog can have some bad behaviors when you get up close.
Jumping, nipping, and scratching are all behaviors you can endure from the dog that was just “nicely sitting”.
Even a dog that looks obedient may change his stature once you get close!
Thankfully, Not All Dogs Bite on Command
But all dogs bite! Anything with teeth can bite.
And, personally, I would rather take my chances with a dog that knows how to bite on command than with an unknown aggressive dog!
And, the percentage of dogs that bite on command, who can flip over and ask a group of school children to rub their tummy is very very small.
You see, as good as my dog is, she is more of a freak of nature than she is THE dog to compare all other dogs to! And, my next dog is not likely to be like her!
I Once Took a Shelter Dog Seminar
I once took a seminar about temperament testing dogs in shelters and helping those who passed the test find homes, and euthanizing the ones who didn’t pass to make room for the more adoptable dogs.
I understand that some of you are already having emotional feelings about what I just wrote.
And, I DID TOO!
I listened and I ran through how MY dog would do if he was tested in such a manner. And, the dog I had at the time would have failed almost immediately.
He was afraid of people and if pressed he would use aggression to keep people at bay.
So essentially she was saying MY DOG would be euthanized.
It was all I could think about, I could barely hear anything else she said because I loved my dog and I couldn’t imagine his life ending that way. After all he was a good dog for me!
I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
I eventually saw the same presentation a few more times and after a while I understood what the respected authority was saying.
Most of the people who adopt dogs from shelter have very little knowledge of dogs.
Many of them have children, and none of them (mostly none) are dog behavior specialists.
My dog was aggressive and fearful.
And, as hard as it was to think about and as hard as it is to say; he would have no business being adopted out to some family who didn’t know how to deal with an aggressive/fearful dog. Who wants an aggressive fearful dog anyway?
Once I realized that no one was going to rip him out of my hands and take him away, I could finally accept that the things she was saying were true. Easy, and adoptable dogs should be adopted no matter how long it took to find a home (in other words dogs shouldn't be euthanized because their "time" ran out) and aggressive or dogs with behavior problems should be euthanized so the adoptable dogs could be adopted.
If he was adopted out he would likely bite several people and end up euthanized anyway. In my home, I could ensure that he was trained and socialized safely while I never let my guard down. (and, yes he lived a happy, happy life and I made sure he never bit anyone).
You See… IT ISN”T ALWAYS ABOUT YOUR DOG
It isn’t always about “waiting to speak or interject or say” NOT MY DOG.
Because when you are waiting to speak you aren’t learning.
Thankfully I am enough of a thinking person that I could look at it from other angles, and understand it wasn’t about my dog (lots of dogs failed), it was about what was best for the dog and the people and children that adopted that dog.
Yes, yes, I still generalize
In this business I think you have to generalize to teach people and keep them safe. "Treat every snarling dog like an individual, he might be smiling" doesn't seem like great advice for people and children.
There are things that are pretty consistent among dogdom, how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, what means what…
But there are exceptions.
Heck I know a few dogs that snarl when they are happy to see their owners.
Unlike the classic “snarl means aggression”
For these dogs they are mimicking the behavior of a smile that we show them! Amazing isn’t it?
But that doesn’t mean I am going to write an article about how snarling means the dog is happy….
I’d rather a 10 year old child avoid a snarling dog because snarling “usually” means aggression than that the same 10 year old run up and hug the snarling dog because she heard that dogs smile too.
In one of those scenarios she is going to get her face ripped off.
And, in the other she is just going to make a healthy decision.
I actually love smiling dogs!! But that doesn’t mean I am comfortable telling others to go ahead and pet one. After all I have 20 years of experience and can read the other signals the dog is giving… but that 10 year old probably can’t see what I see.
I’ve never felt bad, generalizing, to keep people safe with dogs!
You may have a happy snarler, but that doesn’t mean everyone does ;)
And, I may have the best dog ever (in my opinion) but that doesn’t mean all dogs of the same breed or look are the same.
It also doesn’t mean that the next puppy I get will be like her (the odds are much higher it won't be even similar); it will undoubtedly be an individual and figure out it’s own likes and dislikes!
Yes, dogs are individuals and should be treated as such to the best of people’s abilities.
But when it comes to basic dog knowledge that keeps people and dogs safe, I would rather work with some generalities that avoid biting, than test all dogs, or assume all dogs are loving warm animals that love hugs and kisses and you getting in their face and would never bite!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.