“I just wish I had a normal dog!”
I’m told that dog trainers hear that a lot when they take on new clients.
Funny thing – people’s complaints, which also wind up being the reasons they give when surrendering dogs to a shelter, are examples of dogs behaving normally:
- Escaping the yard
- Herding family members
These habits are in dogs’ DNA. When we bring them into our homes, it’s our job to teach them what the new normal is.
How natural is it, from a dog’s point of view, to walk on a leash? To be expected to know which household items are appropriate to chew. To know which places are appropriate to relieve oneself.
I like what trainer and podcaster Fern Camacho says of his dog, Hayley, “On her best day, she’s still a dog.” Keep that in mind when you find yourself wishing your dog were more “normal.”
I know that Leo’s leash reactivity falls outside the scope of what is considered appropriate, and certainly, Isis’s reactivity did as well. But these are German shepherds; it’s normal for them to bark at things they consider threatening. And when they’re on leash, it’s natural for them to lunge as well.
The German shepherds in the world who can tell the difference between a threat and a bicycle – they’re normal too! They’ve just learned to distinguish these things better than Leo did. My job now is to keep Leo safe from the world, and the world safe from Leo, by teaching him what is expected of him.
For the A to Z Challenge, I’m using all positive language in my posts. Find out how I discovered the benefits of positive reinforcement training in my book, Bark and Lunge!
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