Mea culpa

Dogs act according to their nature and the quality of nurture they received, and therefore are never to blame for the way they behave.

Silvia Jay

I just read this and it is the exact thing I have been trying to explain, quite badly, to a friend at work. She’s been having problems with her new boyfriend’s dog and not being a dog lover she’s not well-versed on the subject of dog training. I won’t go into too many details, just suffice it to say that the dog is stressed every time the out-of-town boyfriend brings him to her home. (Naturally, who wouldn’t be a little freaked out? )The dog then acts out this stress in a variety of irritating ways. My friend is incredibly bothered by this and unfortunately it may become a deal-breaker in their relationship.

It’s not for me to judge but as the resident office dog owner, and an obsessed one at that, I felt like it was my duty to stand up for the dog’s point of view. The poor little guy is getting a bad rap around here these days. However, I’m not the most articulate person in the world and I may have done him a disservice. This is why I wish I could take the brains of all  the amazing positive trainers out there, blitz them in a blender, and squish the concoction into my own head.

See what I mean? Not so eloquent.

When it comes to training, I have so much to learn. Susan Garrett wrote several posts about the subject and if I ever find them again I’ll make sure to provide links. She talked about the forgiving natures of dogs. No matter how many mistakes a human makes, they stick around, patiently waiting for us to get it right.

A year ago I had no clue what I was doing. I was just running off of what I remembered of my parents’ training, what I’d gleaned from a few pet store variety books, and what I’d found doing random searches on the Internet. Basically, my thoughts were all over the place. I’d try something and if it worked, stellar. If it didn’t work, I’d move on to the next technique. It was really a combination of failures and the luck of choosing a good obedience class, that kind of yanked me in the right direction. If Shiva was an easier dog, who knows what I’d still be spouting. Thanks to her craziness I think I’m a much better owner.

Unfortunately, I still feel clueless and I still screw up. A lot. Lately her eating-random-things-she-finds-on-the-ground habit has been driving me nuts. It’s really hard for me not to get frustrated when she picks up yet one more potentially lethal piece of garbage. She knows “leave it” and now has awesome impulse control. In the house. Obviously we just haven’t worked on reinforcing these behaviours outside the house, where it’s even more important. Inside she’s not as likely to come across a half eaten-ice cream cone on the floor. The things I expect her to ignore in the real world are pretty tempting. Which is probably why she “blows me off” so much in favour of devouring everything food-related she can find. I know this, and I know I need to start working on it a lot more, but I still get irritated every time she ignores me to lunge for a Tim Horton’s coffee cup.

Dogs act according to their nature and the quality of nurture they received, and therefore are never to blame for the way they behave.  It’s something we all need to keep in the forefront of our skulls.