What do you think your dog must know?
When you are training your dog, the list seems endless at to what they ‘should’ know. They must: recall, walk nicely on lead, stay, not jump on guests, not roll in poo, be happy on their own, not chew the furniture and know all the human rules such as don’t use your teeth or wee indoors etc etc.
When I am training my dogs, I try to make sure I remember that they have no concept of what is on my ‘should know’ list. They have no concept of right and wrong, they only know what I have shown them. Actually, that’s not true – they know how to be a dog! However, most of those behaviours don’t fit in our view of the perfect dog. Dog behaviours such as barking, jumping up, chasing rabbits, digging, eating just about anything – you can see these aren’t really inline with our ‘should’ list.
If you were suddenly transported to an alien world where no one spoke your language and all the rules didn’t make sense – how would you cope? Would you shut down? Would you fight for your right to ‘act’ a certain way? Would you try to follow others and see how to behave? Or run away? I know that may seem a little extreme as an example, but our dogs don’t understand human rules and I think sometimes they can really struggle with trying to understand.
I would like to encourage you today to think what is on your ‘should know’ list for your dog and see if you have actually spent time showing them how you want them to behave? Or are you just hoping they will just ‘know’?
Why don’t you spend 10 minutes today focusing on one skill that you want to improve and get started on your ‘should’ list.
There is definitely an increase in dog ownership, and I can see why. People were at home more and maybe saw this as a perfect opportunity to add a new addition to the family whereas usually they would be working away too much to consider it. We started focusing on home life more and maybe started walking around our neighbourhood and thought a dog would be a perfect addition to this ‘new lifestyle’ Rescue centres closed and therefore the dogs that are coming over from Europe were the only option for some if they wanted an older dog or didn’t want to pay the sometimes very high puppy prices.
So, with lots of new dogs around, it has got me wondering, what do we expect from our dogs?
This is not from a judgemental place – I got a puppy last year, so I added to my family too – but I do think that people are expecting dogs to adjust to our next ‘new normal’ without actually spending time training the dogs how to cope.
If you now need to go back to the office, this cannot be a surprise (although the timing of when is always up in the air) so time needed to be spent getting the dog used to time alone or finding a dog walker that they are comfortable with. Teaching your dog to settle in the park to get them ready for when we go back to the pub and want a polite pub dog! Having visitors in the house is something no one can have worked on (something I am personally now working through as Hallie loves to jump on visitors!) but in every other scenario it has been possible to practise and get our dogs ready for what will be expected of them in the future.
Lots of people tell me they were unable to ‘socialise’ their dogs properly due to lockdown??? This has really got me confused…other than the very first month of lockdown last March, we were able to travel within our local area and therefore our dogs were able to go to different locations, see different places and people. They were able to see other dogs and explore towns and countryside alike. Places likes garden centres were open so could walk around those and experience lots of people and some dogs too. Parks were definitely a busy social location. Socialisation isn’t about being hugged by lots of strangers and mugging other dogs; it’s about being around these experiences and accepting them as part of their world. To build confidence. This was all possible during lockdown, it would have just taken some thought and planning to generate.
If you are reading this and feeling that actually you didn’t perhaps do enough training and actually you do want your dog to have more skills and therefore can meet the expectations you have, then there is good news – your dog can learn the skills you need from them – you just need to get started. Find a good trainer to help you and just take that step. Every dog is different so even if you’ve had dogs before, there is nothing wrong with getting some support and guidance.
Dogs are amazing and definitely can make life better and bring joy and happiness. However, they can also cause stress, family conflicts and lack of sleep if they aren’t fitting in with our expectations.
I feel it is our responsibility to spend time to train our dogs, to show them what we need from them, to have realistic expectations of what is possible at this point in time and continue to learn together so that we can both have a brilliant life.
PS photo of my Cuba & Bria preparing for the worse last year when we were in full lockdown!