Friday, February 17, 2012

Do you like your dog? Do they like you?

me and jane

Some relationships come easy, others you have to always work at. I find this applies in both dog and human relationships. I have 3 dogs and my relationship with each of them is different ... And all of them require work ... Some more than others (you know who you are).

They test our patience, they take us places we never thought we would go, they teach us to be more compassionate, and some of them comfort us and remind us to enjoy every moment and take nothing for granted.

And like our human relationships, our relationships with our dogs aren't always a natural perfect fit. I suppose that is why people stick within a certain breed of dog - or that is waht draws us to a certain breed. We like traits that should be fairly predictable knowing that is what drew us to that breed in the first place: not everyone wants a waggy and never-grows-up flat-coat, that would, and does drive people to drink. Not everyone appreciates the intensity of a Border Collie, or the antics and tenacity of a never give up Terrier.

I dont consider myself a "one breed" person ... I love my dogs not primarily because of the breed they are, but more for who they are. I couldn't imagine having a different combination of dogs. But again - the combination of the 3 compliment my multiple personalities umm errr personality well.

My human friends the same way - I have lots of friends that are are as different and random as my iPod music. And I love them all.

a little R 'n' R.

It all comes down to accepting them for who they are ... Both dogs and human. Dogs seem to accept us for who we are, easily, because they have no choice, really. But we can learn to do better by them and that shows if we sincerely accept them. I guess with humans we can choose to work thing's out or move on and find a new friend if they really piss us off. For the dogs we choose to bring into our lives, it's not that simple. My dogs are my pets first, they aren't true working dogs - that is a whole other relationship. The time we actually spend working is small compared to them just being companions, and the everyday things we do together - they do everything with us: car rides, vacations, family visits, being in public places, following me to the bathroom. So well I have dogs who are bred to work - I get them as pets first, so they are stuck with us for life. But building that working relationship outside of hanging out with us is work. My dogs have rules, they have manners (mostly), and we have mutual respect. They know the difference between lounge time and "doing stuff" time - this takes time, and I love the process and the journey. Knowing your dog and accepting them for who they are is for me a huge part of the key to getting the best out of my dog. It starts with play and having fun, and all of that is related back to me. My dogs would much rather play with me than eachother or other dogs. I play with each of them differently, because each of them require a unique set of play and energy from me to get the best out of them and the best focus possible when we need it, whether it's in competition when I need focus or we're walking in the park and that guy who lets his dog lunge at mine is there again.

I think sometimes in the formal training of our dogs, we get too caught up in the mechanics, the rules, being perfect, and we forget to "feel" our dogs. They aren't robots, they are living, breathing, drooling creatures. I see this lots in Agility - getting to caught up in a rule, a position and we forget to watch our dogs and feel that connection - and yearn for that connection. We don't understand what they are requiring from US so they can do their best, because we are not focusing on our dog. Then we blame the dog because it didn't conform ... when really it's the human not understanding the needs of the dog, and it's not just the needs in that moment - but perhaps it the needs in the entire aspect of the relationship.

The best relationships are those that make us a better person, thinking about how we can do better by our dog and learn to understand them, maybe even starting to act like them, rather than the thinking "you better do what I want or else", or pretending to be sincere and fine on the outside, when deep down you are angry because they aren't doing what YOU want, and that makes you mad - stupid dog. It works with humans, fake a smile and say things are fine, become resentful - and then we eventually believe them, because we trust them, or it's just easier that way. Thankfully dogs are too smart to fall for that, and if we aren't at our best, neither are they, and we can easily destroy that trust by lying to them.

I am by no means an expert in anything relationship wise ... i've screwed up my share over the years, but I am learning, and I've learned most of that from my dogs. My pooches have taught me more than ever to keep an open mind, love them for who they are, and not what I wish they were. For as much as I've taught them over the years, they've taught me the most.


Pet Lover said...

Patience is a Virtue, Pets teach us that.

Kristi said...

Great entry, Sarah. And that pic of you and Gyp made me kind of misty.

manymuddypaws said...

and sometimes the ones you work the hardest at are the best ones.

oddman said...

manymuddypaws says: '...and sometimes the ones you work the hardest at are the best ones.'


Love him.


Jenilee said...


Debbie said...

I always enjoy your posts and this one is great food for thought. I think it's probably why even though I love agility I am drawn to a non-traditional breed of dog - for the 23 1/2 hours or so each day that we aren't training/running agility.

Loretta Mueller said...

An awesome post...just awesome!!!

Sophie said...

Lovely post & photo of you and Gyp!

Urban canines said...

This was a Wonderful and timely post. Thank you for another well written post.

Anonymous said...

Great post Sarah and so totally true, thanks for writing it.


Jill said...

I don't stop by that often, but like to come check in on Jane from time to time. Catching up today, I read this post, and all I can say is "Amen." Every dog I have had has come to me the dog they are, even at only three months old, and each one has been a new challenge, made me push at my edges, grow my heart, and I wholeheartedly agree that the best you can do for your dog is to know them, everything else comes from that understanding, that bond. How can you train them at all if you don't know them, don't love them first?

Marylin said...

I too check in from time to time to read your blog and check up on you and your beautiful, diverse pack.
There is something so very special about the bond you can have with a dog. Only "dog people" understand this and feel it. It is almost to complex to put into words. I too have a special relationship with my dog. The understanding I have with my little guy (a Jack Russel who turned 14 in January!)is unique and our mutual bond feels as if he has been around all my life. Very enriching to be able to feel love in such a way. I love my humans but this is just different.