It’s the holiday season and as usual, a lot of people are going to be getting puppies for Christmas. Now, everyone and their neighbor is preaching about how a dog is for life, not just for Christmas and for good reason. A lot of dogs get sent to shelters because the family wasn’t prepared for the responsibility of another living, breathing member of the family. However, if you’re here at Bevill Dog Behavior, you already know all of this. You’re not the type to get a dog for Christmas then send it back because taking care of a dog is “too hard.” No, if you’re at BDB you’re already well aware that a dog is a lifetime commitment that requires a lot of effort and you’re in the game already. You’re definitely not a quitter. So rather than preach to you about how you shouldn’t get a dog for Christmas unless you’re really, really ready, we’re going to give you a few pointers and some encouragement as you continue your journey through the human/dog relationship.
First and foremost, while it’s true that the human/dog relationship requires a lot of effort, it’s not necessarily true that this effort means we have to struggle. In fact, quite the opposite. True effort can be a joy when we switch our mindset. We can show up as dog owners every day with a healthy, rewarding attitude. This will take us a long way and ultimately increase the amount of satisfaction both the human and the dog get from the relationship. It’s about making the switch from “I have to” to “I get to.” You don’t have to walk your dog, you get to walk your dog. You don’t have to be a calm leader, you get to be a calm leader. The biggest difference between struggle and effort is this simple switch in mindset. Yes, your dog might be difficult on a walk, but with the right attitude you get to do the work, and you get to be there for your dog and create the environment and boundaries that will help them succeed. And when they do, it is freaking awesome. Try to enjoy each step of the way.
Next, the human/dog relationship is just that: a relationship. And relationships are two way streets. This means that just as you are fulfilling your dog’s needs by being the leader they need you to be, they will reward and fulfill you by being a peaceful, loving member of your family. You can’t cop out on your half of the relationship and expect them to uphold theirs. If you only walk your dog when it’s convenient for you, you can damn well bet that your dog will only listen to you when it’s convenient for them. See how this works? A good relationship has clarity, consistency, and fairness in communication, and while you can’t simply speak to your dog like you can other members of your family, you can use the tools you’ve learned at BDB to let your dog know exactly what you need and expect from them. They will be able to relax into their role, and you will be rewarded with a dog who behaves.
Finally, no relationship is perfect. Your dog won’t behave 100% of the time, and this is okay. You probably won’t be the picture-perfect leader 100% of the time either (YOU MONSTER! Just kidding). This is okay too. What is important is that we keep trying our best, we return to our practice again and again and we aim to always be learning and growing. We’re here to support you, we’re here to help you be your best. All any of us can do is our best, and that’s all your dogs really need from you. Try your best, aim to improve when/where you can, and don’t be too hard on yourself or your dogs when things aren’t picture perfect.
Happy holidays from the whole team at BDB, see you in 2022!