Our puppy Khaleesi is almost seven months old now. We’ve passed the majority of the puppyhood milestones: shots, teething, spaying, basic manners, house training. We have been able to achieve all of these, some more easily than others, but achieved nonetheless.
Sometimes I feel that a majority of her young life has been spent listening to us. Sit, down, go to your crate, wait, stay, come, touch, go outside… the list of words we expect her to know grows each week. And, she is a bright and willing pup, eager to please us and always trying to figure out what we are asking of her.
All too often, I think many of us get caught up in what we expect “normal” dog behaviors to be. However, this can be unfair and confusing for both us and the dogs. In our case, Khaleesi would come and sit very closely to us, often on our feet. She would be very calm, no whining or anxiety, and just plop herself down to wait. Thinking she was just asking for attention, I’d squat down, pet her and baby talk her, and continue with what I was doing. Two minutes later, as I’m grabbing paper towels and a garbage bag, I was grumbling to myself, wondering why she didn’t bother to even let me know she had to go out. Repeat this for a few days. Suddenly, one morning as she is quietly sitting on my toes as I’m brushing my teeth, I have a breakthrough. Puppy has to go out! We rush to the front door, where she calmly goes out and does her business. Success!
Each time Khaleesi sat on my foot, she was trying to ask to go out, in her own way. However, because I had a preconceived notion of how a dog should ask to go out, I wasn’t listening to her. We expect dogs to figure out what our wide variety of bizarre grunts and hand motions should be, yet I couldn’t figure out one from my dog. Who’s the smarter one here?
So please, don’t be as dismissive and dense as I was. Take the time to pay attention to and listen to your dogs. You might be surprised to hear what they have to say.