N is for Normal


“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:

  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Barking
  • Marking
  • Nipping
  • Jumping
  • 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!


And join me for the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog.

Heart Like a Dog

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

11 thoughts on “N is for Normal

  1. Thank you for this, and I do so agree with you. Mowing our acre of undulating land is murder, but we have a Jack Russell and, until recently, a Wire Fox Terrier too. Between them and the moles, the land is like a minefield!
    We are currently looking after a couple of dogs for a friend who has had to go into hospital for a while. One of them is a hunting breed (not sure which one, but resembles a large spaniel-type), the other a German Shepherd cross. They, particularly the shepherd, are dreadful when a vehicle passes us on the quiet country lanes where we walk them. Our JRT, Trevor, is totally traffic-savvy. Yesterday he ran off chasing something (probably a small bird, although it may have been a leaf); I called him back with the whistle when he was probably two hundred or more yards away. He turned and ran back in the middle of the lane. A car passed us. We struggled to hold back the larger dogs who were (you guessed) barking and lunging; whilst Trevor stopped running and moved to the side of the road where he waited until the car had passed before continuing his run toward us. All being dogs, but one had leaned something the others hadn’t; I don’t think these two are regularly walked on or near roads.

    1. I feel your pain. I want a third dog, but I don’t think I could manage walking three at once. I can handle these two on my own, but it’s better when Rob walks with us. It’s great of you to to take care of those doggies while their person is recuperating.

      1. Apart from the traffic thing, we’re enjoying having them. Trevor not so much – he doesn’t do sharing and has only just settled into his role of only child after Ulysse died.

  2. Normal is defined as what is normal for you and your life. It doesn’t always fall into normal for others. I think for most we are an abnormal family, but it is our normal and we are happy with it.

  3. My bipeds were so impressed with my digging that they gave me my very own corner of the garden to landscape!

  4. We are any thing but “norma”l and that’s just the way mom likes us! We are professional diggers, btw! BOL!

  5. Thanks for joining the blog hop. I admit, I had a thought cross my mind similar to this this morning, but it was more along the lines of, “It would be nice to be able to walk my dogs without the worry of one of them reacting.” None of the other things bother me, it’s just the struggle to walk them. It is hard to enjoy a walk when you are worried about what the next step holds for you.

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