I wish was the person my dog thinks I am!“ is a quote I see quite often. So what do our dog think we are?
Successful? Conscientious?Beautiful? Generous? Honestly, it does not matter. Our dog loves us no matter who we are.But are we just as accepting of our dog?
Clients often have requests like “Can my dog behave like THAT dog“. This is even more pronounced in multi-dog households where people constantly want to know why one dog is not like their other one.Dogs do have innate qualities and they quite need us to be accepting. A dog’s innate quality is partly breed characteristics, part history and part individual personality. Labradors are often overtly friendly and sometimes a bit too much at that. INDogs (street dogs) can be a bit suspicious. Boxers can be obsessive with toys and play. Beagles can be far too focused on their sniffing. Cocker Spaniels can be a bit aloof.Huskies can be asocial at times. To be understanding pet parents, we need to identify what a dog is really about and graciously accept them for what they are.
This does not mean we don’t train dogs. But training home-dogs should not focus on getting a factory line of dogs that is completely agnostic of the spirit of the individual. A lot of training can play up to the strength of the dog. Sometimes it can be just about management.
A Labrador, for example does not have to be trained to be mellow.Instead, when the exuberance of the dog gets too much to handle, the dog can be restrained for a short while and kept busy with something to occupy the dog’s mind, till that burst of energy passes.
An INDog could be given his space and allowed to approach strangers at his own space. When the dog approaches a stranger, he could be rewarded with a treat or two and then spoken to in a soothing voice.Avoid physical contact with the dog all together. A Boxer could be given plenty of toys, even simple objects fashioned from everyday objects at home like socks and boxes. A good way to make a Beagle very happy is to lay out interesting trails and put rewards at the end of the trail.The trail could be laid out of all kinds of interesting new smells flowers, twigs, a dab of curry, a bit of paneer dragged across the rooms in a trail etc. Cockers hate being hugged. Instead, they prefer long conversations and staring into space with you. Introspective people might love the company of such dogs. Huskies could be given things to tear apart to strike a chord with their ancient hunting instinct.
Walt Disney perhaps did a number on us a disfavour by painting all dogs in a single light. These Disney dogs seem to have no unique personality, all of them seem to understand the native language of the pet parents without any training, seem to have a strong moral radar, instinctively understanding the rights and wrongs of the human household and even seem to understand human machinery without a manual. Even I feel stupid at the pace at which these dogs get gadgets and cars.
As a trainer, my aim is to remove the expectation that all dogs look and behave similar to each other. When my trainer hat is on, I look to identify what a dog loves doing and to build on it. I encourage pet parents to drop expectations of their dogs and instead identify specifically what is a problem behavior. The more specific pet parents get, the easier it is to train or manage the situation with little or no impact on the personality of a dog. A dog loves us irrespective of who we truly are. Would it be too much for us to love and respect our dogs for who they are?