Managing individual quirks

My shadows
dogs are individuals, unique dogs, train individually

If you haven't already learned that life is unpredictable, get a dog.

Or perhaps, because I have seen so many dogs (think working/military/guarding/shepherding/police canines) who have it all together and are rather amazing, I should maybe say instead...get yourself a Golden Retriever puppy.

Um...can anybody say squirrel!!!!? Food? Butterfly? People? (Above all else, human is my Golden Sam's drug of choice).

Seriously (and I don't mean to generalize about or pick on Goldens...any dog can be a goof), it's all fine and good to watch videos of highly trained working dogs, and to harbour delusions that one day your dog will listen to you in just the same way.  It's also dandy to watch television shows about trainers - professionals who work with dogs full time - who work miracles in an hour, and dream about accomplishing those same miracles in the same time frame. 

For many people, however, such standards are just those things...delusions and dreams. 

Most people (myself included, even though I have taken courses) are not dedicated dog trainers.  Most people have other work and jobs to get to, kids to raise, dinners to make, dishes and laundry to do...and while some may be able to eke out the time for dog sports and obedience training, many, I would guess, simply struggle to find enough time to walk their canine companions in the evenings and on weekends.

To add to the problems this busy world creates for the humans within the dog/people equation, consider those that it creates for dogs.  They are increasingly forced to live in a busy, fireworks, people, other dogs, dangers everywhere. Dogs are commodities - often traded, sold, abandoned and bounced around. Most are bored, forced to stay alone in empty homes for extended periods. And, all too often, when dogs are brought in for training by well intentioned guardians, too many are forced to endure "one size fits all" or outdated training methods that simply do not work for them as individuals.

And, they are individuals...I guess that's what I want to stress today.

My Shadow, the Golden Retriever on whom I've written extensively and whom I've blamed for my current dogcentric existence, was a wonderfully calm and friendly dude...right up until he saw another dog with a stick in it's mouth.  Instantly triggered, he would (and did) attack.

My Molly, my wee Havanese who looked like a little cloud of cute when asleep, would (and did), as she got older, bite if you woke her up too quickly...and my poor Mom has the scar to prove it.

And then there's current sidekick.  Benefitting from all I've learned from his brother and sister (who now are together over the rainbow), he's a dream temperament and obedience wise...but his recall sucks.  If there's bunny poop around to munch on, or dead whale goo to roll in, I simply do not exist for matter how loud I scream ewww!!!...

And I'm surprisingly okay with that.

Oh, I could have spent a lot of time and effort, equipped with e-collars - as advised by certain trainers - to condition Shadow out of his resource (stick) guarding behaviour, to force him to submit to what we humans consider socially acceptable behaviour.

It was so much easier to just avoid other dogs with sticks.

And I guess I could have done something about my senior Molly's bitchy wake up issues. Worked with her until she "submitted" (I hate that word) and knew who was "alpha" (I hate that concept).

But, it was just easier to be careful when we woke her up. 

As for Samwise, we'll keep working on his recall...and if he gets there, that's great, and if he doesn't, oh well.

Because really, if I've learned anything from my time with canines, it's that crap is unpredictable. And so now, I focus on who mine are as individuals, so that I can identify and manage any problem quirks, if required.

And I've given up trying to live up to the strict and often lofty obedience, total control and submissive temperament standards that too many others (yes, pet parent shaming is definitely a thing these days) seem to expect of ALL dogs in this big wide world, and now only teach mine what they need to learn to thrive and have fun and live well in our very own little one.


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