"In my time, we didn't have so many issues with our dogs", a sentence that my father has quoted to me on several occasions. I'm pretty sure he is right; life on our planet was a lot different 70 years ago. There weren't many cars, no internet or cell phones and our human lives were pretty much set - you would often follow your parents' footsteps, get married and have children.
The same pretty much went for dogs. They lived their lives as they knew how to. There wasn't much "excitement" in their lives; no regular beach visits, no fancy dog courses or car rides to the other side of the city or even country. If a dog had an issue with another dog the owners would just not bring those dogs together. We would now feel that would be "avoiding the issue". Which it basically is, but who cared? There weren't as many people or dogs as in our current (city) lives so lots of opportunity to just let the dogs be. Accepting that these dogs don't like each other and work around it. Were these dogs unhappy? At times I think yes, because people also spent less time trying to understand their dog. On the other hand I think they had a lot more freedom to be their own individual, and with that, a lot less EXPECTATIONS to handle.
What makes me say so? I think we, in our current society, find it very difficult to accept things as they are. We are so used to portraying and seeing the "perfect pictures" that we think our lives, and our dogs lives, should match this perception. I was totally guilty too - wanting my dog to be perfect and making a fuss over everything he wasn't great at. Turid Rugaas, my mentor who educated me to be the dog behaviorist I am today, was also the one who confronted me with my high expectations. She said, and I quote:
"In order to help your dog, you have to let go of your own ambitions"
However hard it was, I did eventually learn to have lower expectations. It led me to critically look at everything I wanted from my dogs vs what would feel natural to them. As it turned out there can be quite some contradictions between the two. I have set out some major ones in the image below:
I believe we want a lot more from our dogs now compared to 70 years ago, and I think those increased expectations (and of course the changing demographics) lead to a lot of problems we face with our dogs today. Why write this blog? Because I want to inspire you all to think about this. What are the things you want from your dog? Is your request compatible with his natural behavior? If it isn't, can you let go of that expectation? Or tweak it so there is a win win situation?