Realistic Expectations

Do you wonder about what is realistic as far as the future looks? There are many schools of thought out there and I’ll share with you, mine. 

I’m a firm believer that we have created unrealistic expectations about dogs throughout this process of domestication. It has always baffled my mind. We bring an animal home with us (yes – we have forgotten that these are animals!) and we expect them to be happy, social with dogs and people, a joy to bring everywhere, We have this picture in our minds of how it will look. 

It’s a rude awakening when it doesn’t turn out that way and it feels so disappointing. I know. 

Here’s the thing. No matter what breed or background your dog comes from, they’re each individuals just like we are. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be social and friendly even from the best breeder out there! 

Do you know how many dogs bred for service work fail their training? More than those who pass their training. We can’t control everything. 

So, my idea of realistic is whatever is realistic for your dog. Not dogs in general; your dog. 

I can’t possibly have expectations of my daughter, like “I expect her to like everyone and be really outgoing” or “I expect her to be social and love parties and dance clubs and talking to strangers” or “I expect that she will love coming with me to work events and galas”. This is just not realistic. What if she’s an introvert who loves to read and play cello? I’m going to teach her to have manners but to stand up for herself. To be fair and firm as needed. To negotiate. To stand up for what she believes. To trust herself. 

What’s so different about my dog? What if he’s proximity sensitive and doesn’t want puppies up in his grill? Well then, we won’t greet puppies. If one does come along and get up in his face, it’s my job to teach him a coping mechanism that communicates his needs without violence, so a growl or bark and then walk away – totally fair. What if he’s nervous greeting strangers on leash? We’ll learn some coping mechanisms for the off-chance one gets too close. 

I’m going to listen to my dog and help him feel like he controls his environment and his emotions. I’m going to make him feel safe enough to come to me for backup. I’m going to teach him some appropriate and safe responses so that biting is not in his toolbox unless he’s really, truly threatened. I’m going to see him as an individual and respect him for it. 

<steps down off soapbox> 

Let’s think about your expectations of your dog and while I’m not asking you to give up hope or succumb to disappointment, I am asking you to be realistic and to get to know your dog as who they are, helping them to be the best they can be and not somebody else.