DEAR DIDI: Is it ever possible that, through no fault of the human or the dog, the two are just mismatched? -Worried in Lathrop
DEAR WORRIED: This is a question that crosses every dog owner’s mind at some point in time. If you own a puppy … it may cross your mind daily! Some dogs are more of a challenge than others but, in my experience, it almost always comes down to dedication and resources. Is it possible? … Yes.
If we think of it in terms of human relationships it might be akin to a marriage. No one is perfect. If we love someone we work together, give and take, make concessions and develop routines that work for both parties. Humans can sit down and talk through the issues. Unfortunately, that won’t work with our canine partners since they can’t talk. They also typically only have the reasoning skills of a three-year-old child!
There are hundreds of management techniques that can be employed to help manage your dog so that the relationship fits better with your lifestyle needs. I’ve encountered people that are resistant to using those techniques which only proliferates the stress in the home. That stress can ultimately lead to a decision to re-home the dog. It is very difficult to find new and appropriate homes. We can never really know that we did the right thing in the long run. People may think that a high energy dog needs a home with lots of land to run when, in reality, the dog just needs to be taught self-control.
Ethical and responsible dog ownership is dramatically different today than 20 years ago. We have learned that dogs are infinitely more perceptive and capable than we ever knew. We take 18 years to “train,” nurture and guide our human children into responsible adults. Luckily, our four-legged kids only need one to two years of guidance and training. Every single interaction you have with your dog is teaching him something, so “training” is occurring all day, every day.
Is it possible to be mismatched? Yes. The human side of the equation needs to be honest with themselves about their physical capabilities, time availability, and budgetary concerns.
Some people don’t have the physical stamina to properly exercise their dogs but can afford to pay for dog walkers, trainers or doggy daycare instead. Our human kids are enriched through soccer, ballet, martial arts, theatre, social clubs and more. Dogs also greatly benefit from meaningful activities that thoroughly exercise their bodies AND brains. If the human doesn’t have any resources at all and their dog needs more time and energy than they can handle, it might be time to look at quality of life for both parties.
A qualified Canine Behaviorist can help you look at the big picture. Although, you might be surprised at how effective management techniques could be.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.