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Dog Behavior: a realistic look

March 10, 2008

Poncho and I just got home from spending a nice romp on the baseball field. Before we walked around ourselves I spent a few minutes just watching the young kids with their parents playing catch, doing warm-up drills, and getting settled in before they started their game. I noticed there were some kids throwing the ball in every direction they could – even if no one in particular was there to catch it…just giggling and flailing about – having such a great time. Then there were the two boys that were rolling on the grass…down the hill, just rolling and rolling and rolling… I started giggling – remembering doing that as a child too, and having so much fun. 

My question today is: how come all we expect from children is to laugh, play, enjoy themselves, not talk to strangers, and maybe say please and thank you? We don’t ask them to problem solve every issue they may encounter or even leave it up to them to entertain themselves – unless we supply or arrange the activities. Why do I bring this up? Because it seems we expect differently from our domestic dogs, even though they are mentally equivalent to a two year old human. 
So, what are we supposed to do? I say, treat them as dogs, while having expectations that would equate to what they’re capable of doing, not what we wish they could do. If your dog has never learned to *retrieve*, then you can’t expect to throw the ball fifty yards and have him or her go fetch and bring it back dropping at your feet on the first try. Maybe they will! If so, throw a party! If not, then teach your dog what you want in a way they would understand. Making it simple, like the kids learning T-Ball first, before moving up the difficulty ladder. Set them up for success! Otherwise you may be the one that gets frustrated. 
Skills like this are discussed and taught in my own classes here at The Inquisitive Canine in Ventura. We talk about making training steps easier or more difficult for you and your dog. When you are learning something new, or when you’re wanting to advance on the skills your dog already knows… It’s lots of fun, but we still focus on realistic expectations. Makes for a much more fulfilling and rewarding time. 

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