Often, the expectations that clients come to trainers with don’t match anywhere near the level of their expectations for their own behaviour. Is it fair to hold our dogs to standards where we couldn’t even meet those standards ourselves? Let’s take self-control as an example. Consider your own self-control, that last diet you did, how did that go? Can you honestly say that you never relented on it? Not even once? Is it then fair to expect your dog not to hang around in the kitchen whilst you’re cooking, or to watch you eat and then to immediately dive for any scraps without giving your dog something else to do or a valid reason for not doing those behaviours?
When you were socialising your puppy did you allow, and even encourage, your puppy to go and say hi to all other dogs when out on walks? Does it now annoy you that your dog runs over to all over dogs when they’re off lead? Often dogs aren’t trained for future expectations on their behaviour, especially puppies and it’s important to bear this in mind.
Often our lack of considerations for expectations are applied to dogs that don’t get along with other dogs or people. Take a moment to think about your own social experiences. Humans don’t always get along with every person they meet, some are more civil about this than others. It’s really not fair to expect dogs to also get along with every other dog and human that they meet if we can’t even hold ourselves to that same standard. Especially if the other dog or human is being socially inappropriate and your dog is only responding to that.
We also don’t skip into work each day ready for what lies inside and in the best mood imaginable. Sometimes we have those days where we just aren’t feeling it, not for any specific reason but we just aren’t, and we need the expectations on our workload to be adjusted on those days. This is the same for our dogs, sometimes dogs come into classes and just aren’t feeling it. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid, disobedient or that all of the work you’ve done has been in vein, simply that they’re having an off day and it’ll all be back to normal, if not better in the next week’s class.
We also seem to forget that animals behave in certain ways during certain life stages and that it’s something that will get better with time and to a certain extent we need to grin and bear it. For example, puppies need to chew more than adult dogs due to teething. It’s completely unfair to expect a puppy not to chew or mouth. There are things we can do to aid appropriate chewing but at the end of the day it’s something that will happen to a certain extent no matter what we do. The same came be said about puppy evening zoomies. All dogs are more active at dawn and dusk due to their evolutionary history. Evening puppy zoomies are exhausting and if you’ve spent all day with the puppy catering to their every need it can be the final nail in the coffin on your patience (been there, trust me!) However, it’s completely unreasonable to expect a puppy to go against 65 million years of evolution in order to suit your energy levels. It would be like asking a human to become nocturnal and if you know anyone who has ever worked nights you know how difficult that is for humans. As with teething, there are things that can be done to minimise the inevitable zoomies but to a certain extent they’re going to happen, and it will be a grin and bear it situation.
Consider your expectations of your dog’s behaviour. Do you apply those same expectations to yourself? If not, consider changing your expectations or giving your dog some slack if they don’t meet your expectations. It’s only fair!