Some years ago a middle-aged woman came to see me with her one-year-old Kelpie, this lady was feeling overwhelmed by her dog. I asked her to write down what she expected and wanted from her relationship with her dog. What I got back from her was an amazing list of 22 items, it taught me how much people expected of their dogs, and from me to help them. I have copied the list below as I feel that this lady is not alone in her expectations, and maybe we can all learn something from her list…..What I Want From My Dog
- Walks on a lead without jumping and biting
- Gets in the car without hassles
- Keeps his eye on me when off lead
- Comes back on to lead when someone else appears
- Fetches and drops
- Awareness of roads
- Comes at first call
- Stays on command
- Wags his tail when he sees me
- Snuggles in for a pat
- Doesn’t munch on me (mouthing)
- Sit quietly while I eat
- Doesn’t eat poo
- Generally keeps the barking down
- Sits quietly for people to pat him
- Doesn’t jump up and claw
- Can be gentle with children
- Keeps off the table
- Doesn’t steel pegs and socks
- Keeps me friendly with the neighbours
Having a long list of immediate expectations of your dog can make many owners feel overwhelmed and foster a feeling of failure and resentment toward their dogs. This list was in my clients head, no wonder she was feeling overwhelmed with how to go about training all of them. A good trainer should help you organise these items into some sort of order. A trainers job is to set their clients up for success, a clients job is to set their dog up for success.
The biggest pressure I feel as a dog trainer is trying to help people who have high expectations of their dogs and want behaviours fixed yesterday. Your dog trainer can only do so much to help, we give you the tools so that you can go ahead and practice them with your dog. Often, if an unwanted behaviour has been occurring for a long time, such behaviours may never stop, but rather require lifelong management. Be aware of any trainers claiming to ‘guarantee success’, this is not always possible as there are too many variables reliant on success.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your dog’s behaviours write a list and prioritise them in order of importance for your specific situation. Work on only honing a few skills at a time then move on to the next skill, tick them off as you go.
I keep this lady’s list of 22 items on my office wall as a reminder of people’s expectations of their dogs, it helps me see things from a dogs perspective and helps me understand and sympathise with my clients when they come to me frustrated and upset. As a dog trainer my job is to make living with, and training your dog less complicated and therefore more enjoyable.