Dog’s Eye View: Taking the unplanned path
January 29, 2015
You see them all around town — people are out with their dogs, running, biking and visiting with friends. Your heart aches. You can't take your dog out because he barks and lunges at other dogs and might start a fight.
He's your dog and you wish he was like those other dogs that get along. You can't just give him up.
I hear these heartfelt comments at times. They tug at my heart, as well. In my lifetime, I have had dogs like this and understand. I've felt that feeling when standing and watching other people. It's a lonely feeling, and it's hard to know where to turn and what to do.
My greatest learning experiences have come from learning what each unique dog needs. And not all of them require a heavy social calendar. No one rashly courts trouble, but a road block thrown up in front of us causes us to move off of center and face the problem and ourselves.
I've said this before in our columns, "A dog is not a dog is not a dog." They can be as different in personality as any two people. Understanding their talents and needs is where the joy is. Getting some help and learning something new can set you on a sweet path of discovery.
The world of dog training has come so far in recent years. Current teaching methods have the effect of encouraging the owner as well as lifting a dog out of the dead end path of just shutting down unwanted behavior. Now he can move down a fresh road of learning new behaviors and being highly reinforced for them by you.
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An important part of any dog/human relationship is learning what makes your dog happy and what keeps him coming back for those hugs and kisses. Does he have to be like the dog down the street or those who run together at the park? Are you and your family what fills him up? Does he have to play Frisbee or jog to be "normal"? Who defines the term "normal"?
If I can encourage a dog owner with a "special" dog to learn to live the life that fits both of them, then I feel that I have done my job. There are so many wonderful things to do with a dog that don't involve the obvious aerobic exercises. There are tricks to learn, treadmills to share, awards and certificates to earn, and sports that don't involve dog to dog contact such as nose work (scent work) or agility among others.
Special training or behavior modification always is the best way to go, but there are very healthy dog/owner relationships out there that are fulfilling to both parties. Find the sweet path that is unique to you and your dog. You'll be glad you did.
Check out our website and click on the link for http://www.dogwise.com to see the vast array of books, DVDs and interactive games you can play with your dog.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training and has more than 25 years of experience. She can be reached at http://www.totalteamworktraining.com.