"But my dog doesn't like it."
by Robin MacFarlane
Just because a dog doesn't like something does not mean we should not pursue doing it.
We've all said it from time to time regarding our dog's attitude toward certain events or situations.
"He doesn't like it" when there is a thunderstorm.
She needs a nail trim, but "she doesn't like it."
I would prefer the dog sleep in his crate, but "he doesn't like it."
I'm certain any professional trainer will tell you they have heard that sentiment expressed many, many times. So many times in fact that we all wish we had the proverbial nickel for each time it has been said to us.
I know I would have at least enough cash stored up to enjoy dinner for two at an extremely upscale restaurant, and it would be able to include an expensive bottle of wine!
The thing is, we have to balance that sentiment against the relevancy of being good stewards of our dogs. Just because a dog doesn't like something does not mean we should not pursue doing it.
We must not let "he doesn't like it" become an excuse not to do the work of teaching our dogs how to cope with common stressors. The statement can't become a cop out that limits our dog's experience of the world and keeps them in an infancy state of development.
Let me make my point clear by pulling an example from those of us that have raised children.
How many children don't like to take a bath? Or don't like to get their teeth brushed? Or don't like to get a haircut?
While our hope as parents was for our kids to be happy and enjoy life's experiences, we also took the role of parent and adopted a "well, that's unfortunate but you're doing it anyway" attitude when it was needed.
Adopting that attitude didn't imply some sort of brute force, but it did mean standing by with calm but uncompromising insistence to see things through.
I cringe the most when I hear the "doesn't like it" statement expressed in regards to small dogs having to walk on a leash, or walk in general. I don't have a problem with toy breeds being carried from time to time. There are even those times when it is in the interest of safety.
But crippling a dog's ability to experience the world in the way they were meant to view it through olfactory experience is, IMO, not only shortsighted, but selfish. The Papillons, Chihuahuas, Havanese and Yorkies of the world are just as much Dog as the sporting, working and herding breeds.
I realize that most people never intended to short change their dogs when they started down the path of avoiding things or experiences. They were genuinely caring people who wanted to save their puppies stress when they saw them exhibit hesitation around "scary stuff" like garbage cans, friendly but larger dogs, or walking down a dark flight of stairs. Emotions then took the lead and they immediately scooped up Fifi or crossed the street to avoid any possible anxiety.
Instead of avoiding everything our dogs are hesitant about, what if we go out of our way to build their courage and ability to cope?
Think back and remember what happened to your child's confidence when you took the training wheels off the bike? Or how about when you over-came your own hesitation and jumped off a diving board? Those of you who learned to swim as adults can testify to how it helped you let go of a fear that had created some limitations in your life.
We'll talk more about this topic in subsequent articles, but for now, I want you to think about how you can enhance your dog's comfort level and experience of the world, rather than avoiding everything that causes the "but he doesn't like it" response.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.