Everyone knows me as “Ringo’s Mom” and expects me (and hubby) to bring Ringo with us wherever and whenever we can. That means it’s important to practice the life skills Ringo needs to be a pawfect guest. So, I understand how we all might want our animals to be perfect reflections of us. At the same time, I understand that we aren’t expected to have little doggy robots who flawlessly ‘obey commands.’ We, as humans, aren’t perfect. Why should we expect our beloved pets to be? How does that honor the special bond between humans and our companion animals? (Frankly, I don’t believe it does.)
It’s important to accept our inquisitive canines for who and what they are, while doing our best to train, manage, accept, and compromise where we can. Like I’ve said before, sometimes the most important management tool is managing expectations. Remembering this tip can be really empowering and encouraging for pet parents like you and me!
Many pet parents might be relieved to know that if they have a pet who has some behavior or personality ‘quirks,’ it is not an indication of poor pet parenting. Quite the opposite; it’s a sign of a dog in a trusting relationship with his or her humans where s/he can communicate through behavior, rather than being shut down and/or feeling helpless and voiceless.
Just like your inquisitive canines, Ringo has behaviors that we want to modify and that we’re always maintaining or working on — being quiet instead of barking at everything, being in the ‘recovered’ phase of overcoming separation anxiety, and body handling from strangers he hasn’t bonded with yet— are our current works in progress.
Personally, I would rather put the majority of my training energy into behaviors that Ringo is skilled at, enjoys, and that come in handy vs trying to get him to do things that might not be needed on a regular basis. For example, earlier this year, I spent New Year’s Day walking with Ringo and having him “sit and pose” for pictures throughout our walk. Mixing up the routine made the walk more interesting for both of us- while practicing sit-stay with distractions – plus, I got some good photos!
Are you surprised to hear that dog trainers don’t put every second of their time with their dogs into training ‘obedience’? We are likely to let our dogs be dogs, spend time hanging out, and focus our training energy where it’s needed most – bonding and helping pups live in our human world. Here’s another example, for fun as well mental and physical enrichment, I recently started a free-shaping exercise with Ringo where we ‘dance’ together. It’s now turned into an evening wind-down dance party – tons of fun for both of us.
Often, people in the training industry become trainers because they themselves had a pet who had specific ‘quirks’ – and these quirks needed to be addressed. Then they fell in love with the science of behavior and wanted to not only help their own dogs but all the other dogs out there! (And people too of course!)
So yes, I am a dog trainer, human-canine relationship coach, and a canine behavior consultant, but I’m a dog mom too! I talk about my dog all the time; I enjoy bringing him anywhere and everywhere I’m allowed to; I celebrate his milestones and weep when he’s ill. There are even times when I think I’d give all of this up just to be a “stage mom” if Ringo were discovered! (Any agents out there?)
Here’s to barking with the dogs, cheering for the humans, having fun with our best fur friends, and embracing ‘pet parenthood’!