Lowering the Bar For Our Dogs

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Photo by Kevin Lowery | www.kevinlowery.com

“I want my dog to not jump up, to listen when I ask him to do something, to do it in a timely manner, to be happy I have asked him to do it, to do it with confidence… but not alpha… and to anticipate when I am going to ask him to do something!”

Ok, I’m stretching things a bit here to make a point. We really do have very high expectations for our dogs, sometimes more so than we do for human beings, and many times it’s not fair or realistic.

1. Have Realistic Expectations

“Is there any way we can train the dog to avoid walking on this specific area rug?”
Ok, no. Dogs are not robots, they are animals.

In order for us to live with our canine companions it’s reasonable that we would want our dogs to behave in a polite manner. Barging through doorways, launching into your lap on the couch, counter-surfing and barking for attention aren’t considered polite. It is not reasonable to think that an animal can distinguish different which rugs in the home they can walk on or property lines as boundaries. Don’t forget that prevention should always be your number one priority to ensure your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to practice naughty behaviour.

2. “I want my dog to get along with other dogs”.

Here’s the thing, we need to get a little more specific. Do you want for your dog to play with other dogs, some dogs, or to be able to go for walks without your dog flying into a fit of barking and lunging? The realistic goal would be the latter. One cannot expect a living, breathing creature to engage in play with every dog they come across, nor is that healthy.

Do you like every person you meet? What we can work on is our dog being able to tolerate other dogs in their presence and to be able to choose different more desirable behaviors that empower them and instill confidence. Confident dogs generally don’t react to other dogs and not all dogs as they mature want to play as often and can be pickier with their playmates. Some things we can improve and some things we need to accept.

3. Accept the dog you have

It can be difficult not to compare your current dog to another dog you had or knew in your past that you recall as being “perfect” and “easy”. The dog you have now is the one that needs you to accept him for who he is. Dogs don’t want to purposely do things to upset you, they do what works or has a history of working. There are no ulterior motives. If they are reactive, you can only imagine how stressful that is for them and that they likely feel they have no other choice than to act in that manner. As their guardian, we have committed to them and while we don’t enjoy or love the fact that we have things to work on it’s a reality for many of us. Take one day at a time and when you feel frustrated just imagine how your dog feels. Be their advocate and their partner and don’t worry about what the Smiths next door think.

Humans have a long standing history of trying to mold animals and make them fit into our world the way we want them to and if we can’t it’s the animals fault most times. It’s time to start creating realistic expectations for our companion animals and cut them a break sometimes.


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Positively Expert: Renée Erdman

Renée Erdman is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and behaviour consultant focusing on the emotional needs and welfare of dogs and their guardians. She resides in North Vancouver, BC Canada where she runs Bravo Dog (www.bravdog.ca), her pride and joy.


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One thought on “Lowering the Bar For Our Dogs

  1. Karen Strey Rappaport

    Oh how I love his!!! People always expect their dogs to be more tolerant than humans could ever be!

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