As much of an affinity as most dogs have for humans, they are not born knowing how to live with us. Dogs are a different species than humans, and they come with their own species-specific behaviors. These behaviors can often clash with our human expectations of proper behavior.
As you were growing up, you were taught life skills by adults. Some of those
adults may have been better teachers than others, but you grew up learning how to behave in the home and out in public. What was acceptable in your environment may have differed slightly from what was acceptable in your neighbor’s environment, but, in general, you learned basic good-citizen skills. Now, you need to teach similar skills to your dog.
Your dog doesn’t inherently know that he’s not supposed to pee on your carpet or jump on you and knock you over. He doesn’t have a manual explaining that he can’t chew on your favorite shoes or the bed skirt. He has no clue what an “indoor voice” is. He also doesn’t realize that he can’t just run up and get in another dog’s face or dig in your neighbor’s prized rose garden. You need to teach him all of these things, and you can!
Part of being a responsible pet parent is teaching your dog good family manners, cleaning up after him when you’re out in public, and ensuring he that isn’t a public nuisance. By training your dog using reward-based, positive methods, you are fulfilling these responsibilities.
Did You Know? Training Is Mutually Beneficial
A well-trained dog is easy to live with and often welcome in other places. If you want to travel with your dog, even if it’s just to a relative’s house, he will need to have manners so he doesn’t embarrass you or cause problems. Training your dog will build your relationship as you learn to better understand each other. And the nice compliments you get on your dog’s behavior are a bonus!
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for your dog. You may have dreams of raising an agility champion or sharing your dog with others as a therapy dog. Learn what’s required to achieve those goals and start training your dog to reach them. You will work on getting there together.
Another responsibility that you have is to accept your dog for what he is. Realize that not every dog is suited for every task. Every dog is different. He can never compare to any past dogs you’ve had, and you will never have another dog like him again.
Dogs are lifetime companions. Your dog is special in his own way, even if he
never does turn out to be that agility champion or therapy dog. You may find that you need to adjust your goals as you start your training program and learn more about your dog’s strengths and challenges. While changing your expectations can be very disappointing initially, you will always have something wonderful in your favor—your dog. Your dog will love you no matter what you achieve, and that is truly something to be treasured.