Many times each week I see a lady walking her small fluffy dog, each time I see this dog it barks at any cars that are passing by. I have been seeing this lady for years, and today I watched her cross the road and she did not seem concerned in the slightest about her dog barking at passing cars. The barking does not seem to bother her, and she has probably weighed up the option of trying to fix the issue versus it not being worth her while for the little grief it causes. If our dogs have a ‘bad’ behaviour does it always need to be addressed, or can we live with it?
Each family comes with their set of unique rules and these rules regularly extend to our dogs. Rules often come from core values and everyone is different with respect to what they value. We have rules and boundaries so that households run smoothly, there is also a sense of security with boundaries that help us predict the future. Humans are creatures of habit, and we do enjoy consistency and predictability, and our dogs are the same.
When our rules are broken it often makes us uncomfortable and we feel that something needs to be done to ensure it does not happen again. These rules are important enough that we will make the effort to rectify a situation when we notice boundaries being crossed.
If you feel like this, then you will know a rule is important to you. For some people having their dog pull on the lead is not a big issue, for others, it can be very annoying. Just because a behaviour is considered bad by one person does not mean it will be so for everyone else. You need to be the one to decide what behaviours you will and will not tolerate.
Dog owners often get such conflicting advice from trainers, books, family, friends, websites and strangers, it can often be overwhelming. Not every behaviour has to be fixed, if the behaviour does not have the potential to harm then it does not have to be worked on. However, if you have been allowing a behaviour to continue, and all of a sudden it becomes an issue it will take time and consistency to change it. Training a behaviour out of a dog takes considerable time and effort so you need to make a few choices about which behaviours you deem as important to change or maintain.
If your dog jumps up on the couch and it does not bother you, then keep allowing it. Too many times I read that dogs should be walked on a tight lead, right beside you, not allowed on the couch and not allowed to eat before you. If you were to try and maintain such rules 24/7 your relationship with your dog would turn in to boot camp army-style living.
I would rather you chose a few rules that were important to you and your dog’s safety, and do those well, than try to enforce and train behaviours that may not be really important to you. It comes down to asking yourself and your trainer, why? Why am I teaching my dog this? If the answer does not sit comfortably with you, or you know it will be too difficult to enforce because of your values then discuss it with your trainer.
Just like any partnership, you and your dog are going to have a dynamic that you will need to workaround. Just like any partnership, there needs to be a compromise based on personalities. Just like any partnership, there will be behaviours that bother you. Based on your values, can you live with these behaviours?
Leaving some rules aside will allow you to enjoy your dog so much more. If there was a lesson I took away from having Ben, it was that if you can have fun with your dog only good things will come of it. Your dog will want to be with you more, they will be easier to train, and they will be calmer and happier.