Dog’s Eye View: Search for perfection
I sometimes watch Dr. Phil on TV. When you think about it, each of his episodes is all about behavior, and what is interesting to me is seeing in action that the basic principles of learning and changing behavior are the same with all species. I like how he says, “This can be a changing day in your life.” I also like to hear him say, “How’s that working for you?” when someone keeps engaging in the same behavior and expects a different outcome.
Lately, it seems, we’re hearing a lot of people saying they want their dog to be perfect, which can mean different things to different people, but I find myself cringing a bit when I hear it.
Sure, we’ve seen Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Bullet in the movies, and in most people’s eyes these, are perfect dogs. Remember, though: These are dogs trained by professionals for movies, and we don’t see the “outtakes.” These are not perfect dogs. They are trained to perform specific behaviors on cue.
Another meaningful thing Dr. Phil says is, “This is a new opportunity to deal with an old behavior in a new way.” He’s referring to taking a fresh look at our own behavior and creating a plan to change what we do for a more positive outcome. This is also a starting point for solving unwanted dog behavior.
I’ve been pondering the recent requests for the perfect dog. Do you think we’ve crossed the line from technology to living creatures? Increasingly, I observe that people expect a level of accomplishment from themselves — and also from their dogs — at a speed that may not be realistic. Gosh, we even become annoyed when our computer takes a few seconds longer than usual to boot up.
I think dogs are the perfect antidote to technology. They’re warm and fuzzy or sleek. They have individual personalities. They’re sometimes funny and sometimes serious or sad. They come to us and rest their chin on our lap when we feel blue. They get us off of the couch and outside when we might not otherwise do so. They might snore or worse. They get sick, and they get well. They make us worry, and they make us laugh. They’re forgiving when we’ve messed up.
When was the last time your computer curled up next to you and gave you comfort when you were sick?
Remember, dogs are sentient animals that may sometimes have problems. They are responsive to and affected by their environment, just as we are. Remember too that great dogs need to have great owners who basically do what is needed in order to help their dogs live successfully and thrive in a human world.
Sometimes “parenting” your imperfect dog is not easy, but I’m counting on you to do your best.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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