It occurs to me that, as dog owners, we should be very clear about why we do the things we do with our dogs. Whether it is the activities we choose, the training methods we use, or the kind and number of dogs we choose to keep, we should be honest with ourselves at least about why are make these choices. It seems to come down to some pretty basic things.
A lot of what I do with my dogs is for me. I have activities I like to do. I keep a schedule and a lifestyle that I expect my dogs to fit into. That’s just what it is. I choose when I get up in the morning, when it’s convenient to feed my dogs, and when I go to bed at night. My life and work will dictate when I can get out for activities with my dogs. The bottom line is that I will make the choices that make sense for me.
When it comes to dogs, I will choose the breed(s) that appeal to me. I may have a gender preference. I may like a particular look or personality type in my dogs. And how many dogs I want to take on is also a very personal choice; how may dogs do I want around me each day.
This is where it gets interesting. What do I do for my dogs? Do I choose their food because it is what THEY like or what is most convenient (e.g., the right price) for me? Do I choose the way I train them because I can get my dog to do what I want, when I want it or do I use those techniques because it is easiest for THEM to learn the behaviours? When I choose my dogs, do I consider what that particular dog will need in the way of exercise and mental activity to keep them happy or do I just pick the one that looks nice to me?
When people talk about “balance” when it comes to dogs, most often they describe what sounds to me like how much carrot to use and how much stick. The argument that they has to be some force to back up the rewards. I’d like to suggest a different idea.
What if we tried to balance what WE want from our dogs with what our DOGS would benefit from most in our relationship? What if we made one accommodation for our dogs for each thing we required of them? If I want a perfect recall, shouldn’t I be willing to do whatever makes my dog most eager to return to me when I call? If I want a dog that sits quietly with me at the park, shouldn’t I be willing to provide the training and relationship where they can feel safe and not on guard?
Balance, in this case, means that owning a dog is not all about ME! It should be about both of us. It shouldn’t be about results. It should be about relationships.
Just a thought.