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Wanting the Dog You Have

Author: Nicole Stewart | Date: March 14, 2013

I have done private training for the past 13 years.

I have seen people who get exactly the dog they had dreamt of, and then I have also seen people who get a dog with unexpected issues, drives or temperaments.

This can happen in the case of the dog being adopted from a rescue or shelter.  In those cases, it can be difficult because we hope for one thing, but let our hearts drive us in the heat of the moment.  Plus, to add to the confusion, dogs who are adopted tend to take about 3-4 weeks (sometimes longer) to really get comfortable, let down their hair and trust us enough to show us who they are.  Now, before everyone gets mad at me for this statement, let me be clear, some of the best human/dog relationships that I have seen have involved dogs from a rescue or shelter.

For those who have chosen to properly research a well-respected breeder, it’s equally important for them to research the breed before they bring one into their home.  For example, someone might want a laid-back, happy-to-lounge-by-his-or-her-side dog, and purchase a Vizla, which is, typically speaking, a much more high-energy dog.  But, even if the breed “should” be good for the person’s lifestyle, that doesn’t always ensure a perfect match.  All breeds have some variance in energy level, health, and temperament.  (All bred dogs don’t and can’t live up to the AKC description perfectly.)  I had a family who got a Golden Retriever and the mom was planning on this dog being a running partner for her.  Unfortunately, this dog had zero interest in running with her.  In fact, he was happy with walks and content to lie by her while she worked.  Let me say that a dog who is too mellow is rarely a complaint!

No matter how the dog came into a household, people can find themselves with dogs who feel, perhaps, hard to live with, hard to love or just not what they had hoped for.  It happens.

When I walk into this situation, often the owner who has brought me in to help with general manners is actually, without knowing it, asking me to change their dog into the dog they want.

At this point, they may have a dog they have committed to, but the bond is not there.  This is not ideal.

As I see it, my job is to help them teach the behaviors that most dog owners want their dogs to know (i.e. Sit, Down, Stay, Come, Walk Nicely on a Leash, etc.), but more importantly, help them accept who their dog actually is and let go of the dog they have in their head.  Sometimes that lap dog we wanted turns out to be quite happy laying next to us just not being cuddled the way many humans love.

If the client is unwilling to accept this, our time together will be a struggle and will be hard-pressed to really bond.

When a person is able to look at their dog with open and honest eyes and learn to love what their dog does best, almost magically, a bond begins to form.

Sounds a little like dating, right?

The good news is that there are many activities and classes that encourage bonding and cater to different dogs’ strengths such as Nose Work, Agility, Flyball, Canine Good Citizen, and Treibball.  Embracing one of these activities can really make a dog/human relationship blossom.

You know the song that says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need?”   Wise words.

Have you ever gotten a dog that didn’t match up to your dreams?


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