My Audacity

Last week, Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote these two posts that really got me thinking:  Why I Don’t Train My Dog Better and 5 Reasons Why I Train My Dog.

Several months ago – maybe even years – the Husband and I found ourselves in a room with a bunch of other dog people and we were posed the question “Who is perfectly, 100% happy with their dog’s behaviour? Whose training goals are complete? Be honest.”

We kind of looked at each other, shrugged in agreement, and hesitantly raised our hands.

We were the only ones.

You could feel all eyes turn in our direction.

There are many possibilities for what the others there were thinking: (a) “what a couple of egotistical douchebags”; (b) “well they’re delusional”; (c) “liars!” or (d) “Moses isn’t that great.”  Or perhaps even (e) “these jerks just ruined a great teaching moment.”

Moses

Moses

But you know what?  Screw those guys.

(Something Wagging also has a great recent post on judging others’ and their relationships with their dogs.)

Moses is perfect.  At least he is to me.

Are there things I wish I could change about Moses?  Sure. His health history comes to mind first.  And his uncanny ability to fling drool onto your face or hair isn’t exactly endearing to everyone, either.

But I don’t really care about that.  Those are not considerations that would’ve kept my hand down.

Even if there is a little room for improvement or there are dozens more skills we could teach him, I’m not particularly preoccupied with that.  And maybe there was a time I wouldn’t have raised my hand, but that was long ago.

I like Moses for who he is and the history we’ve had with him has just made me increasingly grateful for the time we get to hang out with him, which is so much better when you’re not stressing about areas for improvement.  The focus is on what we have – not what we don’t have.  So when I raised my hand, I was being completely honest.

And that brings me to Alma.

It took us a couple of months to really get to know Alma and let her full personality come out after adopting her.  And if I was focusing on the negative, I’d mention something like her separation anxiety that she doesn’t exactly channel into the most desirable behaviours, for instance.

But that just stresses me out and I used to be very guilty of dwelling on what needed to be improved.

I took it seriously.  I took it personally.  And it took all the fun out of our relationship.

Alma

Alma

And it’s taken me a while to figure this out, but here it is:  if Moses is awesome because he’s perfect, Alma is awesome because she’s NOT.

Alma is mischievous.  Energetic (for a Newf).  Goofy.  Stubborn.  Her unfettered joy in nearly any situation is a trait anyone should admire; she makes no apologies for being herself.

There’s no point in letting myself get anxious about it or fixate on what passersby may be thinking, because her exuberance is really a key part of what makes Alma Alma.

It’s not an easy lesson to internalize, and even if you know it, it’s a whole other thing to put it into practice and let go of any spawning frustration or embarrassment in the moment.  When you spend a lot of time talking about struggles and goals, you can easily forget to talk about growth and success.  At least I did.  And that’s not fair for anyone.

No, this doesn’t mean that training stops here, but it does mean that I won’t let perceived imperfections hold us back and I won’t think about being scrutinized by other dog owners if things aren’t going perfectly.

Instead, I’m practising optimism and contentment with what we have, where we are, where we’re going, and all that both Alma and Moses have taught me.

If you were to ask me today if I was 100% happy with my dogs and their behaviour, I would definitely have the audacity to respond again – and to raise both of my hands: one for Moses, and one for Alma.

And I dare anyone to challenge me on that.

A pair of perfect dogs

A pair of perfect dogs

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

11 Responses to My Audacity

  1. 2browndawgs says:

    Your dogs pose for great pictures, so obviously they are perfectly trained, (unlike brown dawgs). 🙂

    But seriously, this is a great post. Although not exactly the same thing, one of the more difficult things we had to learn for hunt test training is that no dog (even the best trained and smartest) is ever going to be perfect. I think when we were starting out, we got some bum advice that before you run tests, make sure you dog does everything perfectly. If we waited for that, we would never run tests. No dog is perfect and setting that as the ideal is just a recipe for frustration. We continue to keep a high standard in our field training, but at the same time enjoy the time we spend with the dogs training, even if they are far from perfect.

  2. Moses on the bench looks stunning! He must love having his pictures taken. What a star!

  3. Nikitaland says:

    I am sure that we all can find something that we wish we could change about our dogs, but I love both of our dogs no matter what they do or don’t do. One of our dogs could walk better on a leash and the other one could bark less, but other than that, they are the best rescued dogs ever!

    Also, we are helping raise money for the APL for their 8th annual Pledge For Pets Fundraiser. We rescued both our dogs from the APL too. If anyone would like to make a donation to the APL and help those who cannot speak for themselves, here is the link: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/nikitaland/2013-doggy-dollars-kitty-kash

  4. What a great post. I feel the same way about my dogs too. Delilah is Delilah, she’s got a zest for life that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in another dog and she puts her whole heart into whatever she is doing. Sampson is more laid back but still perfect. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

  5. Beagles and Bargains says:

    Great post and story. I went through similar emotions with Luna who also had a bit of a destructive streak as a result of separation anxiety. I learned to work with Luna and to help her express herself. We are in training right now and we couldn’t be happier. Her separation anxiety (and destruction) still aren’t completely gone, but she is still my Luna with so much personality!

  6. Donna says:

    This is such a wonderful and refreshing post, and it hits really close to home. None of my dogs are perfect, especially my Lab, and some time ago I was desperately trying to change him. Trainer after trainer. Technique after technique. And often I was frustrated with him. Even angry.

    But one day I just woke up. A few things contributed to my “awakening” so to speak, much too much to get into in just one comment, but the bottom line is that I decided to just accept Toby for who he was. And you know what? All the crap I used to get pissed off at now makes me laugh. 🙂

    And I wouldn’t change a thing.

  7. sarahhosick says:

    This post really resonates with me. I have definitely fallen victim to focusing – heavily – on the negative aspects of each Remy and Ira. I still have difficulty not getting frustrated with certain “things”, but it is so important to remember that negativity begets negativity in every aspect of our lives, and the relationship with our dog(s) is not immune to that. What is perfection, anyway? It is certainly not a static idea, but rather a fluid one that is always changing and will be different for every person, in every instance.

    I do think there is more that I can do to help them be better equipped for life in the human world, but no matter what they do or how the act, they’ll always be perfect to me because I love them.

  8. Kristine says:

    No judgment here! Just a whopping pile of envy. Your attitude is perfect and is a testament to your beautiful relationship with your dogs. It’s something I am working on. While I do think I still have a lot of work to do with my dog, I also know she is pretty awesome the way she is. If we don’t get to a place of total satisfaction with her behaviour, I will try not to sweat it too much. Attitude is everything when it comes to dog training. I am a work in progress. Thanks for providing such a beautiful example to live by.

  9. When I saw the pingback to my posts, I just kind of saved them until I had a moment to really read them and appreciate what you wrote. And with Honey and our new foster puppy sleeping, I finally got that moment.

    And yes, it was worth the wait.

    I love your attitude and audaciousness. And I love the relationships you have with your dogs.

  10. Max's Mom says:

    I really liked what you wrote! Max has 1 trick he can do and never seems to listen and I know part of it is I’m not a sufficient “trainer” but when push came to shove recently and we had a scary incident with a big pup who went for Max, when I dropped his leash and shouted GO (although we hadn’t really worked on that one…he did and for maybe one of the 1st times ever when I shouted stay once he was at a safe enough distance, to my utter amazement, he did! I guess I don’t much care what Max does as long as he is safe and doesn’t irritate anyone else or do unsafe things, other than that, I’m just thrilled he’s my family and is welcome always with all my extended family! We’re both a work in progress 🙂

  11. great post! i really admire your ability to have this outlook and wish i had it myself. i take all of desmond’s shortcomings very personally and often have run-ins with people in public who don’t appreciate desmond’s desmond-ness. it’s very frustrating and makes it hard to even work with to change. we’ll get there one day!

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