Our Expectations Are Hurting Our Dogs


Expectations play a very big role in dog training.

As a trainer, one of the biggest problems I see for today’s pet dog, is unrealistic expectations from the owner.

These unrealistic expectations are causing our rescues and shelters to fill up with perfectly lovely dogs who became victims to human ideals of what a dog should be.

It starts simply enough, we see a happy family playing in the park with their dog who is dutifully staying close to them, or we have an image of a fuzzy pooch curled up next to our feet as we read. Maybe we remember our grandparents’ dog who had no fences and never left the farm. We want that. But what we don’t see, is the work that went into it.

So we get a dog, and with no farm to work he quickly gets bored of our small city lot and decides to dig up sprinkler lines, or escape and have a walk-a-bout the neighborhood. Remember, on a farm nobody cared if dogs dug or chewed in their free time, and they didn’t have a lot of free time because they had jobs that kept them mentally and physically satisfied.

The following is just the tip of the iceberg that is unreasonable to expect from your dog without lots of time, dog knowledge, commitment, and exercise:

  • A dog that’s just hit adolescents(8-18 months) staying next to you on a busy hiking trail with tons of smells and distractions.
  • A dog who’s been in a crate for 9 hours to settle down next to your feet while you unwind from a long work day.
  • A dog to not, dig, bark, chew or escape a yard that she’s been left in with no supervision.
  • A puppy to understand how to play calmly with a toddler.
  • A new dog to mesh right into your household routine.
  • A dog to not run up to your neighbors, or other dogs, if it’s not on a leash (yes, even if you are just getting the mail).
  • A dog who never leaves the house and yard to not bolt out the front door and go for a joy run while you chase after him trying to put him back in his mundane environment.
  • A dog under two years old (or who does not get enough human-led exercise) not to destroy your house or yard while you are not home.
  • A dog to entertain himself for long periods of time, even with toys.

Don’t let yourself and your dog fall victim to unrealistic expectations. It always ends in heartache. Before you get a dog, consider if you are really willing to significantly adjust your life. You’ll have to get up earlier, work harder, lose out on some of your downtime. All of these things come with that dog you saw playing happily in the park.

I remember one time a woman stopped me on my walk with my dogs and said that if her dog walked as well as mine, she’d take them walking too.

Folks, they didn’t come that way. What she saw was the result of lots and lots of work, headaches, and early mornings. She had what I had sitting at home, waiting to be discovered!

Take the time and effort to discover the dog you have and break the expectation cycle!

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