Let's Normalize (And Appreciate) Imperfect Dogs
I have this sticker on my water bottle. It is a great daily reminder for me during my sessions with clients. Here's why:
No one is perfect. We all expect people to have flaws because as humans ourselves, we know what it is like to struggle with different things in life. Even when we try our best, there are always going to be tasks that we do imperfectly, or that someone else does better than us. We all have our shortcomings and no one expects any human being to be perfect. We have different likes and dislikes, fears and stressors, strengths and weaknesses, and so on. We don't expect people to "fit in a box".
But when it comes to our dogs, there is a problematic difference in thinking. We expect dogs to be perfect. Everyone wants a dog who wants to go everywhere and can be happy in every novel situation that we plop them in.
Here are some unrealistic things we commonly expect from dogs:
A dog who loves every stranger, but not SO much that they jump on them or pull to them to say hi.
A dog who loves us and has the energy to hike and play with us, but will also lay at home and sleep for 10 hours while we are at work without any exercise that day.
A dog who will protect us from a burglar but welcome the mail carrier or Amazon driver into the yard with a polite sit
A dog who loves other dogs at the dog park, but completely ignores them when out on a walk
Do you see how these expectations are not only unrealistic but also way too general to expect from ALL dogs?
I get it, dogs are amazing. They are wonderful companions to us and sometimes it may seem like they are perfect. Maybe that is why we put them on a pedestal and expect outrageously perfect behavior from them. Don't get me wrong. Many of the things that I have listed above are things that can be modified by implementing management techniques and humane training methods. But at the same time, I think it is crucial that we have a reality check about our perspective and goals first.
Let's normalize the fact that dogs aren't perfect. Let's stop trying to put dogs into boxes of expectations. And let's even go a step further and appreciate their imperfections. Be happy with the fact that your dog loves strangers and so badly wants to say to the man across the street. Accept the fact that your dog is overwhelmed at the incredibly busy brewery and would rather stay cozy at home while you are out. Laugh at the fact that your dog loves chasing squirrels.. maybe even try chasing squirrels with them!! (yes, I have done this myself)
Because in my experience, appreciation is the first step toward a better relationship between you and your dog, and in turn a richer quality of life for everyone involved. We all know that it feels good to be appreciated for exactly who we are, imperfections and all.