I’ve read the complaints on Facebook and blogs. I’ve heard them on the streets.
“My dog never comes when I call her.”
“He’s just stubborn.”
“I could never trust my dog off leash.”
“My dog wouldn’t give me a kiss if I smeared steak on my lips.”
You’re lucky. At least you don’t know the curse of the eager-to-please dog.
How Do You Know What Your Dog Wants?
When you have an eager-to-please dog, the kind who will walk through fire to stay by your side, you face an awesome responsibility. Because you have to ask yourself, “Am I causing my dog to do something that will make her terribly unhappy?” Your dog won’t tell you herself, by barking, running away, or “being stubborn.”
Should I take Honey to the crowded festival downtown? Or would she be happier snoozing at home?
Will she adapt to riding in the front of my crowded kayak cockpit? Or is she just going along with something uncomfortable because she’s eager to please?
How hard should I work to train Honey to ride in my bicycle cart? And if she tolerates it because she wants to be with us, is that ok?
And those are just the small decisions. What if we start talking about major, and potentially horrifying, life changes—like relocating to a noisy and crowded city, living aboard a sailboat, or moving to New Jersey (sorry New Jerseyites, I have nothing against the Garden State; it’s just an irresistible punchline)?
And what do I do with all the expensive smelly treats I bought to
bribe lure motivate Honey to cross a scary ramp from a moving dock to a moving boat this past week? It turns out that just stepping aboard myself was enough to get her to come over on her own. And except for a brief lapse when she walked off the ramp without me to flirt with the two men in the boat at the next slip (slutty dog), Honey stayed by my side no matter what. Without complaint.
With a dog like that, how do I make the best choices for her?
What Comforts Your Dog
Thinking about this, I’ve looked at other dogs.
Some dogs take comfort in their routines. They get up the same time every day. If you forget to feed them when they’re expecting it, they bark or whine. If you try to take them on a walk to a new place, they refuse to move.
Other dogs take comfort in their home. They don’t care to travel. Even car trips make them anxious. But home is their safe place. Or, in the case of a thunderstorm or fireworks, perhaps the basement or bath tub gives comfort.
Some dogs become braver by watching another dog do something first.
If you’re going to challenge your dog with something new, it’s smart to do it where they feel comfortable.
What comforts Honey? Being with us.
Sailing With The Dog
All week we’ve lived aboard a 30 foot sailboat in Kingston, Canada.
The setting was unfamiliar to Honey. Our routines varied greatly. Heck, she couldn’t even count on the floor to be where she expected it between the floating docks, movement of the boat, and heeling (when a boat tilts on its side) under high winds.
But Honey had her source of comfort. Mike and me. And apparently that was good enough.
So maybe I can stop worrying about whether Honey is doing things she hates just to make us happy. Because I know that being with us is what makes her happy.
And maybe that’s good enough.
Your Turn: How do YOU decide if a new, and potentially scary, experience is worth exposing your dog to?