About 20 years ago, I visited a friend who has 5 kids – at the time all were under the age of 10. They were all piled in her bed one morning and she said, “I like mornings the best because no one has gotten in to trouble yet.” I have no doubt that if you have 5 small children, one of them is doing something you don’t want them to do at some moment(s) during the day!
When I got Beau as a puppy, I felt the same way. Mornings were the best time. He was cuddly and cute and hadn’t yet chewed on a shoe, knocked anything over, or rolled a tennis ball under the couch that I had to rescue. Every day we practiced commands, worked on socialization, and played fetch. As the day went on, it seemed he always managed to do something that tried my patience. Nineteen months later, he still does, to be honest. And a lot of that is because I stopped “raising” him at a certain point.
I think that happens more with dogs than kids. People expect they are always going to need to provide guidance and help their kids be better people, regardless of age. But oftentimes I think with dogs, we figure once they are about 2 years old, they are “raised.” That we don’t still have to teach them new things or help them grow and develop into the dogs that we want them to be or that they want to be: a dog that can have a full life experiencing the world because he knows how to interact in a human world or a dog that gets to learn new games or see new places even as an older dog.
Starting this week, I am challenging myself, and all of you, to take a solid step towards “raising” your dog, regardless of age. So let’s pick one thing that we can work on this week with our dogs. And then let’s share with each other at the end of the week how it went.
For Beau, my great failing is properly teaching and maintaining good recall. I have an emergency recall word and in a bad situation, he often will come when I yell “turkey neck.” But if he is playing or doing something that could get him into trouble, I have little chance that he will immediately come when called. To him, I am simply the Fun Police. And that, my friends, is my shortcoming not his.
Give some thought to how you can deepen your relationship with your dog. Understand her better. What activity could you do together this week that you maybe haven’t done in a long time. Have you gone through the basic commands in the last few months? Rewarded your dog for sitting, laying down, staying? Just set aside five minutes to play tug or fetch or some other game that your dog enjoys?
I am going to commit to working 5 minutes a day on Beau’s recall. I challenge you to commit 5 minutes a day, every day this week, to doing something new or old with your dog that you think will improve your relationship and understanding of each other.