Unrealistic Expectations We Put On Our Dogs & What They Really Need From Us
Are we demanding too much of our dogs?
Let’s talk about how high society’s expectations are for pet dogs nowadays. It seems as though behaviours that are very normal within their species are seen as problematic to us. Pet owners place such high importance on compliance and I believe this is related to how we see our dogs and what we think their roles really are.
Dogs are animals (obvious, but bear with me) and they have certain behaviours they get joy in practicing. Things like digging, jumping up happily to greet a new person, rolling in stinky stuff, etc. We see these behaviours as ‘bad’ when really they are completely normal to the dog. It may be hard for this to sink in with some people but dogs weren't put on this planet to do whatever we please. They have their own list of species-specific behaviours which serve a purpose for them. So really when it comes down to it, they don't owe us anything in terms of their behaviour. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t train our dogs to have good behaviour, it just means we can also leave space for dogs to just be dogs.
Not everyone’s journey is the same
Some common complaints I hear from pet owners about their dogs are "I don't want my dog begging at the table" or "my dog pulls on the leash". Both of those are very valid behaviours to want to change but to some they may be minor inconveniences that don’t really bother the owner. My job as a dog behaviour professional is to help you filter your specific behaviour goals for your dog from what society has told you is the "right" thing to what is truly right for you and your pet. As a dog guardian, you get to decide what is a valuable skill for your dog to have and what isn’t.
Reminder: you’re doing great!
There is so much judgement out there for dog guardians, everything from trainers promoting "alpha" and dominance theory, to citizens on the street ready to tell you what you should really be doing with your dog. There is always going to be folks who have an opinion but truth be told, none of it matters! Each dog-human duo will have different goals and priorities, some may be similar but some may be completely different - ultimately no pair is the same. Dogs don’t need to be deterred from every little behaviour that makes them a dog, getting proper knowledge and working with a professional can help you find the balance that is best for both you and your dog.
At the end of the day this is your relationship with your dog. You and your pup are writing this story!