If you could strengthen one personal trait before adopting a dog, what should it be?
Kindness? Patience? Flexibility?
Nope, it’s none of those.
The best trait for a dog person to have is creativity. Let me tell you why.
How Creativity Helps You With Your Dog
Have you ever met someone who had an amazing way with dogs? Everything they do teaches you something? And dogs love them?
When I think about what about that person makes them so good with dogs, I come up with creativity.
Being creative around dogs makes you a canine artist.
Creativity in training
It’s a good thing my dog Honey is so smart. Because I am NOT a good trainer.
Good training is creative training.
I struggled with teaching Honey to get into our bike cart. But our trainer Russ knew just what to do. He taught Honey to jump through the bike cart—in the back and out the front. Once she realized she wouldn’t be trapped in the cart, it was much easier to teach her to stay in it. (Check out Adventure Dog In Training on YouTube to see video evidence.)
If your dog doesn’t understand what you’re trying to teach her, try something else. Mix things up. Intuit when it’s time to stop before you do too much and mess up your progress.
Creativity in problem solving
I’m lucky that Honey doesn’t counter surf. But she used to weave around my legs while I was cooking in hopes I’d drop a morsel.
Unfortunately, she was also there when I moved a hot pot to the drain in the sink. Or took a cake out of the oven.
I worried that her moochiness would get us both hurt.
Honey was going to beg no matter what I did. So I looked for a creative way to channel her begging into a better behavior. I taught her to beg by lying quietly on her pillow on the other side of the room.
It took me a while to figure this out. But I told her to “go to her bed,” a behavior she already knew, and reinforced it by tossing her food scraps while I cooked.
Now Honey stays on her pillow while I cook.
Guests think she’s amazing. But I know it’s her own, less dangerous style of begging.
Creativity with puppies
When Honey came home with me, I got permission from my boss to bring her to work.
I set her crate beside my desk. Luckily, she was a very good puppy and would nap for up to three hours at a time before I had to take her for a break in the park outside my office.
When I had a client coming in or a meeting to attend, I’d take her out for an exercise break first. After all, a tired dog is a good dog, right?
But one time I could not get her to settle down. She was biting me (that was Honey’s signature annoying puppy behavior) and yelping.
I kept trying to tire her out with toys and balls but she was just hyper.
Those of you who have raised toddlers already know what it took me far too long to figure out: Honey didn’t need to be tired out more. She was already overtired.
I wasn’t creative enough to turn my thinking in a new direction. I put Honey into her crate in desperation. But she settled right down.
Lightbulb moment: puppies need lots of rest or they’ll be crazy. At least I finally got there.
Creativity saves you money
Sure, you can spend $20-$40 on food puzzles for your dog. Or you can seal up stinky treats in an empty frozen vegetable box, place it in another box, and so on until you have a many-layered puzzle for your dog to tear through.
You can buy expensive dog beds. Or you can stuff those faded sweatshirts to make soft resting places for your pups.
You can buy boots to keep ice balls from forming between your golden retriever’s toes in the winter. Or you can use a warm cloth to instantly melt them once you get home.
Maybe it’s not as chic as spending the yearly income of a developing nation’s family on pet products. But if you don’t have to work so hard to pay your bills, maybe you’ll have more time to spend with your dog.
Creativity in communication
Dog people are never more creative than when we learn how to talk to our dogs.
Dogs are brilliant at understanding us.
They watch our body language, listen to our words, and pay attention to our tone.
We’re not nearly as good at understanding dogs. Unless we improve our creativity.
Turid Rugaas observed dogs all around her and compiled pictures and explanations of their body language in On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals (affiliate link). Rugaas showed great creativity in observing how dogs “spoke” to each other so we humans could better understand them.
Every time we observe our dogs and try to figure out what they’re telling us, we’re growing our creativity, and building a stronger bond.
You Are The Creative Class
Most dog people are not terribly creative.
They pull their dogs around on leashes around instead of growing a relationship that allows them to walk together. They don’t know why their dog does things and they don’t care too much.
Or they assume their dogs are “spiting” them when they damage household items instead of trying to figure out what’s really going on and how to fix it.
You are the creative class of dogdom.
I should know. I’ve been writing Something Wagging for nearly five years. And reading your comments, following the blogs of S’Waggers who write them, and hanging out with you on Facebook has taught me how important creativity is for giving our dogs good lives.
Hanging out with you has made me more creative. And my dog Honey and every one of our foster pups has benefited from that creativity.
So keep being kind. Keeping being patient. And flexible.
But most of all, keep growing your creativity. Because you’re canine artists. And your dogs are the most interesting, amusing, and beautiful works of art you’ll ever help to create.
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Your Turn: Do you agree that creativity is important for working with dogs? Or would you argue that another trait is even more important?
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