For a number of reasons, the dog world can be a scary place to talk about your dog’s behavioural problems. It makes us vulnerable as owners, and for a lot of dog trainers or competitive sports owners our dog’s behaviour is attached to our self-worth. This means talking about our dog’s behavioural problems can make us vulnerable. It’s not really surprising, very people wish to discuss their flaws or the flaws of their loved ones. However, by not talking about our dog’s behavioural problems we’re not doing anything to help how everyone feels regarding those problems. We’re not helping owners address them or feel less guilty about potentially causing them and this creates a culture where behavioural problems are inherently bad, with possible connotations of incompetence on behalf of the owner which may be entirely unjustified.
Every single dog has behaviour problems, they may be mild or something their owner is entirely happy to manage or even live with without concern, but all dogs have at least one. That’s absolutely okay, what is defined as a behaviour problem could well be part of that dog’s personality just as no human is perfect and we love people in spite of these flaws. Being open and honest about your own dog’s problems will encourage others to do the same. Yes, there will be some who have comments that are unpleasant and perhaps judgemental but at all times you do the best you can with the knowledge you have for your dog and no one can ask anything less of you. It’s time we stopped berating others for their dogs having flaws when no one has the perfect dog.
Talking about your dog’s issues shouldn’t assign blame. There’s absolutely no need for blame in dog training and leaving space for it is a waste of time. And because I’m not one to tell others what to do without trying to take my own advice here’s an open and honest description of my two lads.
Timon is a gorgeously affectionate dog in his own way but really struggles with arousal. Nearly all of the fights between our lads relate to Timon’s ability to deal with arousal, or lack of. His relationships issues with me in recent days have also stemmed from having no other ways of dealing with the level of arousal he’s experiencing. We’re getting there working on that but it’s a tricky one as by definition goes from 0-60 in no time at all. I’m learning to do things that get Timon’s arousal up with a plan in place rather than trying to think on the job, and because he’s a dog that loves to make me think on the job, I’m learning how to get time to think mid training session so that I can think on the job!
Pumba is such a wonderful dog in so many ways and he’s almost been the perfect first dog anyone could ask for. He doesn’t really care if you make a mistake when training him, he knows he can try again and that doesn’t bother him. He’ll turn his paws to anything and will give whatever you fancy a go. However, he really struggles with strangers bending over him and for reasons I cannot explain doesn’t give a lot of the common early warning signs such as a growl which can make working on it really tricky. It’s a lot less of an issue than it once was but is very much a work in progress.
Next time someone tells you about their dog’s behaviour problems take the time to ask them about it so that you can learn and apply the learning someone else has to your own dog, either now or in the future. Everyone has something to teach you from their experiences with their own dogs, but we need to find it within us to respect their vulnerability and take the opportunity to learn rather than throw it back in their face.