Many years ago when I took our various dogs to training classes I just assumed that all of my instructors owned perfectly well-trained and well-adjusted dogs.
Now that I am in the business of dispensing training advice to others I can tell you this really isn’t true. Even if it were possible dog trainers don’t have time to create perfectly trained dogs of their own because they are too busy helping you train your dog.
As for owning well adjusted dogs – I can only speak from personal experience but in this house that is more of a wistful fantasy than a reality. Of our four dogs three bark too loudly, too often and for no discernable reason. (yes, I know it’s a breed trait, but still…) Two have significant levels of anxiety that impact their daily lives. One is reactive to other dogs and resource guards within our own pack. The other has separation anxiety. The pack is definitely a work in progress.
I have come to accept and in fact celebrate the reality that my dogs are about as far as they can be from perfect. After all what could I possibly learn from a perfect dog? (or even an easy one for that matter). Admittedly the learning curve has been steep but the experience of having to deal with real dog issues everyday has been priceless
Years ago I had never heard of the term reactive dog. Now reactivity, counterconditioning, desensitization and impulse control are common terms that are used daily around here. I have spent countless hours practising and refining management and training techniques required to get an anxious reactive dog successfully through every single day. Along the way I have acquired a real understanding of what it means to be the owner of a reactive dog.
I am currently enrolled in a two year intensive course on the science of dog training and behaviour. For a learning junkie such as myself it is opportunity of a lifetime. But all that theoretical knowledge would be useless without the opportunity to apply it in real time. My four dogs might be whackdoodles but they are also great teachers. They work patiently with me through endless practice training sessions. They let me know, in their non-judgmental doggie way what’s working or not . And they are willing to come back time and time again and hang in with me until we get it right.
No matter what our level of dog expertise none of us are ever going to have a perfect dog. But we can accept and appreciate the dog we do have. We can look at problems as an opportunity to work in partnership for solutions. Training together, to develop basic skills or to solve more serious issues, can only deepen our relationship with our dogs. So forget about owning that perfect dog and in the words of Stephen Sills, “Love (and train) the one you’re with.”