My dogs are perfect*

*Some restrictions apply.

Believe it or not, the dogs of (even superawesome) dog trainers are (in my experience) very rarely perfect. The dog trainers I know have a habit that is both wonderful and dangerous: they adopt the dogs with issues. But who better to pick these dogs? I can tell you pretty confidently that if another family had Daph, they would have returned her to the shelter after less than six months. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what happened. And Fae? Well, she’s awfully cute and is amazing in a lot of ways, but she has her flaws, too. No one likes a resource-guarding pit bull puppy, or a puppy that screams through the night**. Between those two qualities, any normal, sane person who didn’t train their dogs for fun would have returned her four months ago.

who, me?

I recently mentioned to Turtle that a dog trainer friend was having some issues with her dog. Turtle was shocked! “But she’s a dog trainer,” she muttered in horror. “She’s supposed to have awesome dogs. Perfect dogs. You mean it’s not just us?

I don’t know whether it’s the thrill of the challenge, the recognition that no one else would be willing to work as hard on the issues we see, or something else altogether, but I am here to tell you that a dog trainer with a Dog with Issues is not a recommendation to run the other way. Rather, it is a sign that the trainer is willing to do the work; that they know what is involved in changing a behavior that can truly affect the lives of both the dog and the owner; and that they are not just talking the talk. A trainer with a “problem dog” really does understand the stress of having a dog that barks at strangers and pulls on the leash. Hell, a trainer with a perfect dog (if such a thing exists) know what it’s like to have a dog that pulls on a leash.

I can't believe you're telling the internet about my issues. How embarrassing! I can't bear to show my face.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to admit that my dogs aren’t perfect, and that I haven’t completely overcome every hurdle with them. Daphne still barks and lunges at strangers and vehicles. I still will not trust Fae with a ball and unfamiliar dogs in the same space. But I can tell you that we are working on it, and we work on it every day. I have some good tools and I definitely have the motivation (moreso when Turtle is saying, “Fix it. Fix it now.”). Most of the issues I see are not things you can fix in a day, but with just a few minutes every day, we are definitely making progress.

another cozy Sunday (Daph is ready for the photoshoot to end)

Have you ever met a perfect dog? Was it perfect everywhere***?

**Ok, that only happened once.
***Daphne is perfect in the house with everyone, but only after they have been in the house for 10 minutes. She is perfect with new dogs off-leash. She is perfect with any dog that comes into the house. Faegan is perfect in public, and when she is asleep.

12 Comments

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12 Responses to My dogs are perfect*

  1. Kim

    Sounds just like the fact that every vet or vet student has a dog with healthy problems. I recently walked into a vet conference and they were all saying “I got my dog when she came in for dilated cardiomyopathy” or “type II disc disease” or…well you get the idea.

    Keep up the good work with Fae and Daph. And I’m going to see you soon for a puppy play day.

    • Right?! Honestly, Fae is turning out to be wonderful, but that’s also why we picked her. AND she’s STILL not perfect! It’s like getting a dog from a breeder who has a really good health record and taking the one dog that ends up with bad hips. For sure.

      Yeah, playdate soon! Sunday?

  2. Melissa Long

    I have the same experience with my kids…except for the screaming in the kennel all night, it’s all exactly the same.

  3. I really liked this post because you’re right…so many people expect trainers to have the perfect dogs, but this just shows how training can be a work in progress. Plus, who would want a trainer who hasn’t once been where you are? I think people who go through it with the rest of us are the ones who really understand.

    • Exactly! Sometimes I consider putting a little sign on Fae’s shirt that says “My mom is a dog trainer!” – free advertising! Until she does something wrong… easier to just tell people when they talk about how she’s doing something right :)

  4. Yes! We still have some problems with Virgil being around other dogs. He’s perfect with the dogs at the groomer’s, though!

    • I know! So many dogs that are “perfect” are just perfect when you see them. Even the dogs that are just lovely in public might have a couch eating (or cat-eating!) problem at home – you never know!

  5. Really appreciate you sharing this. The “everyone else’s dogs are perfect” mentality has been a huge stressor recently. Badger is perfect except for when he’s around Mushroom, but we are seeing progress.

    • Here, too! Turtle is often saying, “Why can’t our dogs be like THAT dog?” (while, of course, pointing at some tiny fluffy puppy that comes running when its owner calls, because its a tiny puppy who hasn’t hit adolescence. Unfair.). Our dog is better than everyone else’s dog! For us. So there. And your dogs are perfect, or will be.

  6. Benny & Lily

    agree with Two Pitties ..it is a work in progress no matter who you are
    But we’re purrfect
    Benny & Lily

  7. Speaking of imperfect dogs (or rather imperfect humans), I was wondering if you saw the story about the news anchor in Colorado that got bit in the face while interviewing the owner? Here is a link to the story, and I am sure you can find the video of the actual bite on youtube. Just curious your take on this? It happened a few weeks ago so the controversy has calmed down a bit, but it was widely talked about here. Heck maybe you can do a post about it!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/kyle-dyer-on-today-show_n_1306600.html

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