When Your Dog's Needs Change: What To Do When The Dog You Got Isn't The Dog you Hoped For
Bringing a new dog home is a dream come true for many folks. After days, weeks, or even months of searching, they finally find a dog that seems to be a perfect match. However, what happens when things don't go as planned? What if the dog you got is not the dog you hoped to get?
This situation can be tough for any dog guardian. It's natural to feel disappointed, frustrated, or even sad. You might have had certain expectations or desires that the new dog doesn't meet. Maybe they're not as active as you hoped, or they have some behaviour issues that you weren't aware of. Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that it's not your fault, and that you're not alone.
I remember when I got my first dog, I had big plans for him. We were going to go everywhere together, he was going to play with all the dogs he met and be a cool, confident canine. That was all great until behavioural red flags started to pop up at 6 months of age. I struggled to accept the fact he wasn't brought into my life for the purpose I had intended. He had been brought to me to shed light on the fact I had a passion for helping dogs with behaviour challenges. He opened my eyes to rewards-based training (although I wish I had implemented this sooner). Thus he created a purpose for me that was really profound.
The first step in dealing with this situation is to acknowledge your feelings. It's okay to be upset or disappointed, and it's important to allow yourself to feel those emotions. Then, it's time to take action. Talk to your veterinarian or a dog behaviour professional to address any concerns you have about the dog's physical or behavioural health. Work with your dog “team” to make a step-by-step plan and be consistent in your efforts.
One major for me as a dog trainer is assisting pet guardians come to the realization that despite not getting the dog they'd hoped to get, there can be positive outcomes. We can choose to see them for their strengths (which may be cuddling on the couch, that's still fantastic) versus what we are missing out of our relationship. I know sometimes it can be tough to leave your reactive dog at home when you go out with friends and their dogs. No one is immune to the human experience, but we can choose the silver lining over the dark cloud.
Remember, building a relationship with a dog takes time and effort. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it. Even if the dog you got is not the dog you hoped to bring home, they can still be a wonderful companion and a source of learning and lessons.
Each dog will bring new experiences to your life, and expand you in ways you won’t even realize!