Although I have written about this before on another level, a recent recurring theme in my training from clients is, “Our other dog was NEVER like this one.” As the saying goes, "You get the dog you need, not the dog you want." Many times, we have forgotten that no dog is exactly what you want behaviorally all of the time.
First of all, they are different animals just as humans are different from one to another. Second, we have often forgotten what it took to get the previous dogs’ behavior in line and the fact that they may be aged, or have already passed over the Rainbow Bridge, by the time we get our next dog. Older dogs are usually more balanced because they are used to being calmer.
And then we get a puppy! With LOTS of energy! Which puppies naturally have, and sometimes we don’t do our homework to select a breed and an energy that will fit our lifestyle. We see the cute puppy (they are ALL cute, by the way; so NO, you can’t take them all home) and we start the humanization process which leads us to bring the dog home and give them LOTS of love with no rules.
The rules start the second you and your dog meet. And when you have selected the one you WANT (note that emphasis?) you begin by introducing leashes and introductions to your house and the rest of your pack. Things can go very badly when your pack, humans included, don’t have rules/boundaries/limitations to live by.
I often hear from humans that are starting to see aggression either in the house or on walks, that their dogs were fine for a time, “And then, all of a sudden, they changed.” Almost always this can be traced back to a change in the humans or in the human environment. When I ask how they are on the walk I also hear, “We don’t walk anymore because they pull too much or they’re too reactive to other things.” And so the spiral continues until it gets out of hand.
In my previous posts, you’ve seen that The Walk is about leadership and not necessarily exercise. No leadership from the pack leader? The dog will fill the void you created and it usually won’t end well. Our happy followers are, in essence, being abused by our lack of commitment to walk them and be a leader. Every walk is your chance to reinforce to your dog(s), and to you, that you are the leader and that you are a GOOD and calm leader.
There is no Easy Button in this life, and that extends to your dogs. You have to put in the work to get results. We had a huge pack walk at last night’s Canine Leadership Course graduation that included 17 people and 11 dogs, all without the first problem. One of my new pack leaders remarked, “This stuff really works! It really does!” But that is ONLY accomplished through the work and dedication to our dogs, and that is how we grow as a pack leader and as a person. The dog is there to also improve YOU, and sometimes we need more improvement than other times. This may be one of those times.
Lisa likes to equate how different we are from being young to when we are older as, “God is pruning us just like we do a tree to make it a better and more productive tree.” Could it be that this wonderful animal that can cause us so much frustration is a pruning shear put here for you? I like to think so…
Until next time, stay calm and keep pruning!