Is This Really My Dog?

Your Dog's Got a Personality. Get Used to It!

You know how some parents want their kids to grow up to be doctors and they end up with musicians? The same kind of thing can happen with dog owners and their beloved pets. We sometimes hold our puppies to expectations that they can’t fulfill, nor should they. They, like children, manage best with acceptance. So do we.

  Ringo is my first dog. I adopted him a year and a half ago, and he gives me tremendous joy. Through him, I’ve been given sense of loving purpose with which I’m sure many of you other packpeople out there have long been familiar, but to me, it’s still something new.

Once in a while, so is his behavior. I can’t lie: when I adopted him, with his sweet little face and quiet disposition, I imagined he would change the world, one melted heart at a time. He seemed a perfect candidate for therapy dog training, and after he aced his first obedience course, he earned his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certification at the local dog club. He was on his way, I thought, to a career of healing, visiting local hospitals to spread his warm, magical fuzziness wherever it was needed.

Then he started growling. About six months into our relationship, Ringo got comfortable enough to reveal his true self. He’s not that “into” people. He trusts only a few, shows affection to even fewer, ignores many and downright dislikes the rest (“grrrrr...”)

Sure, I was disappointed, but I've come to accept that he’s a living, thinking being, full of his own opinions and tastes. His behaviors I can train (treats have proved helpful in meeting new people), but his personality is his own. He’s "aloof."

“That’s okay,” said one of his trainers. “He doesn’t have to like everybody; he’s just not that kind of dog.” When he likes someone, however, he really shows it. That’s the kind of dog he is. He’s also the kind of dog who sits on command, leaves my things alone and never makes messes in the house. He may not be therapy dog material but in other ways, he’s a dream.

Nobody’s perfect, and the same goes for dogs. The best that we can do is encourage their best assets, despite the expectations we place on them. If you’re new to dog ownership, take it from me. More likely than not, your dog’s behavior will change in some way during your first year together. That’s not necessarily bad, but character-building, for both of you. You’ll need to practice acceptance, discipline and the diligence to research the most effective ways to deal with negative behaviors. In doing so, you’ll see that your pet’s brightest traits and talents will truly shine.

Ringo may never be a therapy dog, but that’s okay. He may never be a doctor, either, but if he decides to take up a musical instrument, I’ll pay for lessons. What matters is that I encourage him to be the best Ringo he can be. Good, Ringo! Good boy!
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