Mandy: 3, rest of the entire family: 0
to the current:
Mandy: 2, rest of the family: 8 and counting.
This all happened over the course of a few years. Near the end of college I adopted a little white dog who my aunt and uncle quickly and very unexpectedly stole from me (a story for another time), then another one that they generously allowed me to have for a couple years before they also acquired him. That being said both little dogs were clear with me that they wanted to make the move, and who would dare argue with a little white dog whose set his mind to something. But thus began a slow but sure flooding of new dogs into our family gatherings. With all these new furkids have come a variety of personalities and challenges, and lots for me to think about. Each one is different and each family member has a different set of expectations for their pups. some are great on leash, some arent. some go off leash all the time, others never. some sleep on the bed, some do not.
When I was younger I romanticized the dogs you see on TV without a piece of fur out of order, the militant seeming hunting dogs who stand at attention ready for the slightest command. I thought that was so cool. The more dogs Ive worked with the more Ive come to celebrate their quirks and personalities. There was a time when I wanted to help clients achieve a sort of "canine perfection" and I used the word "should" a lot in relation to dog behavior. Over the last few years Ive workshopped that, especially with clients as I had a few say things like "making her do that breaks my heart" about things that I just thought they "should" fix. I new find myself confronted with scenarios family members face with their pups by asking more questions about what they want, what they need, and who their dog is, "as a person". I think old me might have felt i was over-personifying, but old me wasnt near as aware of the depth of personality and individualism each dog can have. Each of my rescues have had a separate set of behaviors to say the least, and every day i learn more about their feelings and abilities (yesterday one of mine shattered a window protecting us from squirrels... i think. did not know he could do that.)
Long story short, I have a new model. i roll my eyes at things like "your dog should never sleep in your bed" or "dogs dont belong on the furniture" as rules. If YOU dont want your dog to do those things then cool no prob, but dont act like anyone else needs to folow those rules to have a good relationship with their dog. I have things that are musts for me. I dont like to pick up dog poop on walks, my dogs poop in the yard or in long grass in the woods, somewhere I dont need to worry about scooping it up from. personally i hate walking around with mastiff sized dog dung in a flimsy plastic bag. not into it. so I dont do it. No one else needs to do that. for me, the fact that my dogs have rules around pooping makes them a lot more perfect. My dogs do walk perfectly on the leash. i refuse to be pulled, also i have less total pounds to throw around so im not doing the pulling battle. My dogs are allowed to bark as they are my only security system but they are expected to stop barking as soon as i ask (that one is always a work in progress lol). my kids absolutely use the furiture and sleep with me at night. that being said if i want them off, off they go. thats my perfect refined over time between me and my kiddos. I guess what im trying to say is there is no perfect, half the rules you read on the internet are bullshit, and your version of perfect dog behavior is entirely up to you and your kiddos.
Ive had plenty of tough clients where we had to workshop what we were looking for in the end. For example, an old client had a gorgeous boxer who had big issues with strangers. He was kindof a different guy socially, he didnt perceive the world the same way most dogs do. We never asked him to be a perfect greeter at parties, we didnt ask him to be able to go sit at a restaurant. However, he did need to be able to allow occasional friends or family members in the door without getting hurt, and his parents needed to be able to travel and trust him with specific dog sitters. That is what we created a system around and made a reality. relationships are about compromise afterall.
Now i hear clients out in the beginning, work with the dogs a while, then revisit the question, what experience do you want to have as a dog owner under these circumstances. the truth most often is we can get there, it just takes work. Also true is sometimes... the work isnt worth it to people, so we modify what were asking from the pups and their owners. To me, theres absolutely nothing wrong with that, and understanding what amount of work or how intensely people are willing to tackle problems is a key way to ensure we get realistic results as a team, and that I dont get burnt out or frustrated because the client isnt doing exactly what i "think they should". In the past I stopped training dogs multiple times because I got so frustrated when Id see the dogs I knew could be "perfect" under my constant militant eye still doing old behaviors that "they shouldnt do". Id see a client getting drug down the street or the dog still refusing ot come when called, big issues for me. But sometimes, those behaviors didnt bother their owners! or they didnt mind always needing to have a fence and a good grip on the leash. sometimes they even liked the quirks that i thought were "bad"- that was their perfect. My perfect is different so my relationship with my dogs is different. Now i see things differently and i always keep in mind that they may not have the desire, time, or energy to fix certain things. of course its hard to hear they surrendered a dog or put it down when i know a certain amount of work could have fixed things. But i try to have a lot more grace and keep my expectations out of it. Im just here to help when asked.
If you are new to the dog-owner life, welcome. I hope you find it as fun and fulfilling as all my family members are. remember not to compare your perfect with anyone elses. if you want help making certain things happen or even knowing whats possible, thats what im here for. If something is unsafe or a problem for you, I promise we can find a way to make changes - just remember itll take work and itll take time... and probably a lot of patience. But, unless something is unsafe, i hope you could care less what anyone else thinks is perfect canine behavior.