The Perfect Dog
Flipping through the channels, admittedly way too late at night, or in this case too early in the morning I came across someone promoting the “perfect” dog. What is the perfect dog, exactly? In my opinion it would be a dog that vacuumed its own dog fur, did the dishes, the laundry, answered the phone when those annoying telemarketers called and earned an extra paycheck; not a dog that chews furniture, breaks windows, eats poop, or occasionally tries to mount the cat!
Really, what is the perfect dog? A dog that I find perfect, most likely will not be perfect for the person sitting next to me at the gym or directly across from me in the produce aisle. I don’t want a robot dog, I want a dog that thinks and is active but my sister likes a calm dog that spends a lot of time sleeping.
Is there really such a mythological creature? I mean, how many of us have had “The Perfect Dog”, one that has not suffered from any of the afore mentioned challenges or any other petty annoyances?
I think when we dream of “The Perfect Dog” we insult the relationship that we share with that animal and with any of the animals of our past and our future. Who in fact has the “Perfect Spouse” or the “Perfect Children” who make no blunders no oversights in their daily doings?
I know there is no such thing as “Perfect” not from the humans and certainly not from our furry friends. Why must we impose such a dispassionate trait on our dogs? I have seen this time and time again when working with people and their dogs and the misconceptions that they have regarding the often misunderstood relationship they are currently enduring with their pet.
Why Do We Fall for It?
Most often I have seen it with people who mistakenly think they have indeed lived with the perfect dog. Frequently these people were children when they shared their lives with this perfect dog, and now they are adults, dealing with the adult dilemmas we all face with animals ownership. Children don’t deal with the inconveniences of pets they only share in the fantasies and joys of having a pet and sharing misdeeds and fun together.
The story holds true for us adults who have shared our lives with an extra special dog. We often forget what life was like with that dog when he was a puppy. We relish the nature of our old dogs that have no interest in conflict or the exhilaration that comes with it. They are happy to nap their days away and have learned to embrace their status quo lifestyle.
Some people even compare their dog to their neighbor’s dog, or their dog trainer’s dog. This is simply unfair and unrealistic, unless you live with an animal you don’t deal with the knowledge and inner workings of that bond.
I know that people often see my dog Snitch as perfect because he obey commands rapidly, has a plethora of blue ribbons and obedience titles and is a wonderful ambassador of how dogs should behave, but, what they didn’t see and what I hate to admit is the abundant sofas he consumed when he was a puppy and suffering from separation anxiety. Or the day he had a setback in his separation anxiety training, and I came home to him doing the “river dance” in my water bed shredding the mattress and biting the waves that flowed over the frame and onto the ruined carpet and flooring underneath. Certainly, these behaviors would have landed him in an animal shelter, or attached to a chain if he had been unlucky and lived with someone else!
The other reason people fail in their relationships with their dogs is that they have unrealistic expectations and/or do not want to put forth the effort it takes to teach the dog correct responses.
People want a dog that will leave the Thanksgiving turkey alone even if it is set on the floor and left for hours at a time. They want a dog that doesn’t jump when it is inconvenient, or bark when they seek quiet. They want dogs that renounce their annoying instincts and live as a human would without exerting any effort to attain the behaviors.
This is unrealistic! There is no magic wand that will fix behavior problems. Alleviating problem behaviors takes oodles of time and patience. Almost any behavior can be taught, but it takes time, commitment and kindness!
What Do We Do?
Come up with a goal and traits that are important to you to work towards and then come up with and instill a plan of action. Without showing your dog the way and working together how are you ever going to attain the goals you have in mind?
- Come up with a list of traits that will make your dog the “Perfect Dog” for you
- Instill a plan of action how you will achieve these goals
- Understand that there will be gains and losses as you race toward your goals
- Change takes time! Snitch’s separation anxiety took years of diligent work.
- In times of stress, dogs revert back to what they know best…which is often the naughty behavior know this and plan for it.
- You may have months or even years of success and then see problems arise again, this is normal, go back to your action plan.
- Celebrate little accomplishments and changes
- Embrace your dog for who he is not who he is not!
NO DOG IS PERFECT! They are all individuals and they make mistakes like we do. I could go on and on about the dogs I own now and those of the past trying to convince you how perfect they were, but then admitting to owning dogs that have broken out windows, eaten batteries, and shredded seat belts! The good news is that when they had reached a ripe old age and were seasoned with the salt of time on their muzzles, all their transgressions had been forgotten and they too were elevated to the status of “Perfect” in my mind’s computer.
Each dog is different, and it is sad to compare one to another or to have unrealistic expectations. I am not saying not to worship the special relationships of the dogs you have and those you have had, I am only asking you as you compare your current dog with those of the past, do your best to remember the grueling struggles and know that unrealistic comparisons don’t facilitate a resolution in your current relationship!
Do the work in your current relationship; spend time together playing and training and getting to know and love one another and soon you will be revering your current bond and finding it difficult to remember your struggles!
What behavior do you need to work on to make your dog the perfect dog for you? Leave your comments and questions and I will do my best to gear my articles to you and help you find the way!
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.