I am a long-term dog lady but, honestly, I’ve struggled in the dog world for many years. I really enjoy dogs, not in a “they’re really cute and I want to pet them” way but in an “I’m completely fascinated by every aspect of them and want to understand how they tick on a deep level” kind of way. And I’m not just driven by dogs, I love life, behavior, relationships, and this magical miraculous hurdling-through-time-and-space rock that we’re so lucky to live on. Learning about dogs is just an extension of that passion… a very deep extension.
I’m not a competitive person. I don’t worry much about what people think of me and fall more into the let-it-go #MakeLikeElsa category, so I’ve never really felt that I fit into the sport dog world or the, often very serious (or totally the opposite “it’s a doggy utopia, what could possibly go wrong?”), pet dog world either. I have always believed the best part of me with dogs to be more on the side of curiosity, exploration, and play. Once something becomes about winning, an ends-justify-the-means situation, it loses me. Getting my dog to respond to me when needed to expand our freedoms always felt more like a game than a contest, and that is the way I hope it stays.
There are absolutely problems that are serious and that is most of what I do really, “problem dogs”, but I think my success in that area comes from my “oops let’s try that again” attitude and not from my correcting any “wrongs”.
Resolving behavior problems is still a game, where the dog and I experiment with different things until we find something that works for us both. This allows a lot of ego releasing, reduced stress, and made me a much better dog trainer.
I do still get rage-ey sometimes with other pet professionals (there’s a difference between letting go and refusing to embrace learning and improvement) for the most part I am able to let it go.
So my advice is to take it a little easy with your own dog. The thing that most hurts my heart is seeing dog owners feel shame, embarrassment, and guilt about their dog’s behavior. In the words of myself, which I utter all too often, “it’s a dog”. You only have a short time together on this earth, far too little time to beat yourself up about your dog’s behavior and much much too little time to waste energy on burdensome emotions that you could instead channel that into learning, growing, and enjoyment together.
So I implore you, work your dog, build those skills, and change behavior, but don’t be a weirdo about it.