She begs shamelessly during meals, jumps on visitors, and sleeps on my pillow. Unless she wants to sleep somewhere else, of course. Rules? I think she’s up to four now, and one is really more of a suggestion. And if you were to tell me that my dog walks all over me, I’d show you the pawprints on my t-shirt. Literally.
Are you surprised? Although I’ve always been honest in my blog, lately I’ve been a bit more formal. Part of this is because I’ve begun teaching classes and I don’t want to completely embarrass my boss. I figure I should reflect positively on her business, and a poorly behaved dog is probably not a great advertisement.
It’s hard to hide the fact that my dog is spoiled. It could be different, of course- I know how to teach her the skills she’s missing- but I don’t care enough to teach them. She begs because I don’t mind. She jumps on me because it’s easier for me to reach her that way. As for sleeping on my pillow, frankly, I find it endearing. Still, I’m sometimes embarrassed about her “bad” behavior because I know that society expects my dog to act a certain way.
Well, so what? I have spent my time and energy on the things that matter to me. Maisy has a gorgeous heel, is reliable off leash, and gives me an enviable amount of attention. She’s capable of turning in excellent scores in competition. She’s so easy to live with these days that sometimes I forget she ever had any behavior problems. And, if I ask her to, she can act like a good dog. I have taught her “leave it” and “off,” after all!
The truth is, everything we teach our dogs is artificial. It’s stuff that we humans have decided is desirable. Some of it is hygienic- I’d rather not have bodily waste in my house. Some of it is about safety- I really don’t want my dog to bite a child. And some of it is just a preference.
I try to keep this in mind when I’m teaching. As a positive trainer, I avoid the use of force. My goal is to find ways to motivate my dog to choose to do the things I want. I try to do the same thing with my students. It’s easy to feel frustrated when they choose not to do their homework, but one look at my own dog reminds me that it is their choice. Although I can explain the benefit of a particular exercise, ultimately, it’s up to them. Only they can decide what they want their dog to do, what they can tolerate, and how they want to spend their time and energy.
And if they choose to let their dog beg, jump, and sleep on pillows… well, who am I to judge?