On this, Pet Centrics’ 9th year, and fitting for the day on which we celebrate, as well, love and relationships, allow me to share some thoughts about our life with dogs...
To get the most out of living with a dog, and to be a great dog owner (or dog guardian, if you prefer) requires an involved relationship. Else you deny yourself the benefits of having a dog in your life. And, oh, how plentiful they are, these benefits! To name a few: dogs provide us with emotional support; they encourage mental and physical health; they can help bridge the gap between us and other human beings.
Furthermore, in my line of work, I have found that, even at their worst – in states of aggression and fear – if we allow ourselves to listen and learn, dogs have something to teach about the value of compassion, patience and understanding. That these have a more lasting effect than forcefulness or assertiveness. Something we would do well to apply to our relationships with our fellow humans, too.
The simplicity and the straightforwardness of their emotions, their wants and needs brings us back to what is simple and what should be important. They bring us back to “the moment”, the now, without overly complicating or overthinking life.
But these lessons that our dogs have to teach cannot be learned if we do not actively engage with them. Therefore, I say, “Get ACTIVE with YOUR Dog!” – a challenge to all dog owners to be present and to be involved. Get moving with your dog! He (or she) is so terribly eager to move with you. Be playful and silly! Your dog is a master at play and silly games. Engage those brain cells and those muscles in yourself as much as in your dog who hungers greatly for having his mind and body stimulated.
Though they have learned to sleep for hours without end, and are seemingly content to do so, I do not believe a dog exists that, given proper stimulation and motivation, would not be happier and healthier given ample opportunity to go on a lengthy walk. Certainly, no human is better off lounging on the couch in front of the television all day. Thus, by the grace of God, or whatever Powers That Be you believe in, we have been given Dog as a partner for activity. He is not meant only for quietly resting beside you on the couch all day, though this – a quiet, undemanding pet – is what we often believe to be ideal. In such a state, you are missing out on your dog’s true potential – a companion with whom to happily walk and explore the world outside your doors.
Our responsibility, beyond feeding our dog and giving him a place to sleep, should include getting active with him and allowing him to be fully the dog he is meant to be. As I’ve said, in fulfilling this responsibility, there is as much for us to gain as there is for the dog.
The molding of the animal into becoming an amazing companion, especially, is part of the wondrous journey of having a dog. Here is where you are challenged to see the world from the dog’s point of view, and in learning to do so, you grow because your perspective expands. Commit to the training of an animal whose language is not your own and you will find your skills for listening and communicating, for motivating and negotiating much improved.
More dog owners, I hope, would allow themselves this sort of a relationship with their family dog. One permitting open communication rather than demanding submission. In the dog’s youth, let us not misunderstand his exuberance and excitability as misbehavior but identify this as an expression of unfulfilled physical and mental stimulation. And in his later years, let us not be content for him to settle into a sedentary lifestyle – as detrimental to his health as it is to ours. But let us encourage him to continue engaging all his amazing senses and, consequently, to keep us moving as well. There are only winners in this kind of relationship.
Therefore, don’t ask me, “Can you train my dog?” You are asking to get to a beautiful destination without making the trek, without enjoying the amazing views and, also, denying yourself experiences that will help you come out better in the end.
In closing, I thank those of you who in the past 9 years have trusted me to guide you in your relationship-building journey with your dog. It pleases me to discover every year that there seem to be more and more people committed to learning, teaching and staying active with their dog.
As much as you have allowed me to teach you, you and your dog have been my teachers as well. Happily, I look forward to the many more experiences and lessons that we can share with one another to help each other GROW.