Very few of us started out with the perfect dog. Many dog owners experience disappointment when their new dog doesn’t meet their expectations. When imagining what sharing our home with a dog would be like, most of us picture the classic image of the dog sitting comfortably by the fireplace or snuggled at our feet. The anticipated leisurely strolls in the park, coming home to a wagging tail, and morning snuggles with a furry best friend may be what drove us to look for a dog in the first place. Maybe your dreams were shattered when your dog did anything but that. Perhaps you dreamed of having a dog that you could enter into agility or obedience trials, but your dog is too fearful or reactive. Maybe your dog drags you around the park, lunging and barking at every passerby, or you come home to a wagging tail in addition to a destroyed house. It can be devastating when your dog is nothing that you hoped he would be. These feelings of disappointment are often renewed when you see another’s dog walking calmly by his human’s side-- all the while, yours is pulling your arm out of its socket and calling attention to you both as he lunges and barks at your neighbors. It's hard to accept the realities we feel we can't change. Maybe with enough time and patient training your dog can reach that point of feeling comfortable in public, but perhaps putting in hours of training just to get your dog to calmly walk past another dog wasn't what you envisioned.
The first step is accepting that you have a difficult dog and putting aside your dreams of what you think your dog should be. Let your dog be who he is, and love him right where he's at. Perhaps your dog wasn't what you wanted, but maybe he's exactly what you needed. It's important to remember that your dog isn't trying to be difficult, he's trying to cope. He's struggling too, and he needs your support and patience to live a happy life. We all have our flaws and want to be accepted for who we are, so why shouldn't we offer our dogs the same courtesy?
I have a fearful dog who is afraid of people. When I adopted her, I had so many expectations of what we would do and where we would go together, but she's not happy being that dog I imagined. Despite this initial disappointment, we embarked on an amazing journey and she's so much more than I could have expected. She's so loving, sensitive, and patient. Sure we have to plan our outings to parks and go on walks when the least amount of people are out, but we both enjoy these peaceful outings. We have to have plans in place to keep her comfortable when guests are over. I have to be vigilant to be her protector and her advocate, but it's a job I now gladly accept because I love seeing her happy. It's so rewarding to see how far she's come. She used to hide under the bed when anyone came over, and now she's comfortable being in the same room with guests and happily wags her tail around them. Her only request is that she doesn't want people to touch her. It took years of patience, management, and training to get her to that point, but that's who she is and I accept who she wants to be. She's 8 years old now and she's even starting to let certain people pet her. I continue working on helping her overcome her fear, but I never push her, she lets me know when she is ready to take another step. I may never get to show off her tricks in public or compete in obedience trials, but I know what she is capable of. We train behaviors in our own backyard because that's where she's most comfortable. She has taught me so much, and I would never have learned these skills or life lessons if it wasn't for her.
Take a moment to view your dog's challenges in a different light. Ask yourself what you have learned from them or what you can learn from them. Seek ways to help your dog and be his support through his struggles. Our dogs are always there for us, let's be there for them too. There is beauty in every flaw. I encourage you to find the beautiful lessons in the flaws of your canine companion. You'll become a better person, and have your dog to thank for that.
~ Sarah Rodriguez
I am a passionate animal lover, rescuer and trainer. Kindness is my goal. I never want an animal to feel intimidated or threatened. Training should be fun for both the dog and human, so the training methods I use reflect my goal of helping the animal to feel safe so they can learn and have fun. I desire the same for the human client as well. Life is too short to spend time training an animal in a fashion that is anything less than fun!