Since Honey was a puppy, we’ve done regular training in busy, outdoor settings. Dozens of people have stopped to compliment me on what a good dog she is.
But having a “good” dog carries a curse.
Breedism Rears Its Ugly Head
Honey and I were practicing calm behavior near children at the local playground.
If Honey could keep all four paws on the ground, we’d get closer to the kids and solicit some lovies. But if she started jumping like a fish on the end of a line, we’d take a few steps back.
One of the moms came up to tell me what a “good” dog Honey was. I thanked her and said we were working hard to teach her polite manners. I don’t think the woman heard me because she immediately started complaining about her dogs at home.
“I have two mixed dogs from the SPCA. I should have gotten a Golden Retriever. Yours is so good. Mine are rotten.”
No, she didn’t enroll either of her dogs in the discounted training classes at the SPCA. And no, she didn’t take them for walks every day. And she certainly wasn’t practicing life skills with them at the park.
Although she had watched me working with Honey for 30 minutes, nothing could persuade her that anything caused Honey to be “good” except her breed. Palm. To. Face.
We’re All Different at Home
She didn’t do nearly so well when I asked her to sit (three times) from her position lying on the carpet.
And that loud demanding bark letting us know she’s ready for bed and she’d like us to go with her—at eight o’clock—is eardrum-shattering.
Not one of us is as good in private as in public. Except maybe the Dalai Lama and the former American Dalai Lama, Fred Rogers.
Bad Behavior is All My Fault
When the breed description for your dog includes phrases like intelligent, trainable, and eager-to-please, it’s a message from the gods that anything she does wrong is all your fault. It’s a heavy burden to bear. Especially for someone who does not need one more reason to feel bad about herself.
Lets Me Be Lazy
Honey is a gentle and easy-going girl. She’s not a big barker (most of the time). She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.
She’s never even counter-surfed.
If I never did a second of training with Honey, she’d pull more on leash, especially if she saw an interesting person, dog, or squirrel passing by. And she’d jump on people a lot more. But she’d still be a pretty easy dog compared to many. It’s just her nature.
It’s tempting to get lazy and not work as hard training Honey to do new things. She doesn’t need much training and management to go places in public. But if I get lazy, I’m not allowing her to fulfill her potential. And I’d probably be more hesitant to take her places where her exuberant friendliness could be a problem.
A Good Dog or a Good Furry Person?
I’ve never taken a poll but I suspect that 80% of the people who compliment me on Honey’s being a good dog don’t really like dogs all that much. They praise her when she’s acting less like a dog than ever.
A good dog sniffs things that smell interesting, even if it’s embarrassing to humans. A good dog roughhouses with other dogs. A good dog drools when snacks are nearby. A good dog jumps to show excitement. A good dog chooses who he wants to be friends with. A good dog shies away from things that are frightening.
When Honey sits quietly by my side while I talk to someone, she’s not being a good dog. But she is doing an excellent impression of an adult human.
A Good Dog with Issues
For years I’ve had dogs with issues.
My childhood dog bit someone severely. Agatha and Christie’s mildest traits were their separation anxiety and a diet of furniture and toiletries. At least those habits felt mild when compared to their fights which led to bloodshed.
Since Shadow was an only dog, the only blood shed when she was with us was mine—from her extreme pulling on leash. Oh, and that horrible tumor in her jaw that left bloody saliva drooling from her mouth.
In comparison, Honey is an easy dog. You could even call her a good dog. And many people do.
I love Honey. Her affability allows me to do something I’ve always wanted to do: welcome other dogs into our home. Agatha, Christie, and Shadow could never have handled foster dogs visiting.
But I miss so many things about my “not so good” dogs.
I loved the intense attachment Agatha had to me, the flip side of her severe separation anxiety. I enjoyed Christie’s intense curiosity which was also a major part of why she pulled severely enough to cause herself harm. Shadow’s stubborn unwillingness to be trained away from joining us in bed early every morning became one of her most-loved traits.
Most of all, I never had anyone come up to me when I was walking Agatha, Christie, or Shadow to tell me what good dogs they were.
Which made it our little secret.
I know you have a good dog. What makes it a blessing? And what makes it a curse?
Announcing a New Bacon Poet
Annette Carricato won the Bacon Poet Magnetic Poetry Kit in our FreshPet Turkey Bacon giveaway. Congratulations, Annette!
I hope you’ll post one of your first bacon poems on the Something Wagging Facebook page.