Double check that you read that question right. Not what do you want from your dog, but for your dog. It’s such an unusual question that the grammar check function in Word highlighted “for,” thinking I made an error when I typed it! People often talk about what they want from their dog – a companion, unconditional love, a playmate, maybe an agility competitor, etc. But I don’t hear much conversation among dog owners about what they want for their dog.
Parents often talk about their hopes and dreams for their kids, and how to help their children realize their own hopes and dreams. Do their kids need a tutor, a coach, a better team to play on, or a mentor? They usually try to the extent possible to support their childrens’ dreams. Of course they want their children to have manners and be able to function in society, but I don’t hear many parents valuing blind obedience or self-sacrifice as goals for their children.
Where did we get the idea that those are such laudable traits in dogs? I know dogs aren’t people! But why would you assume that means that they don’t have their own ideas, hopes, and desires – just like people? Your dog doesn’t wake up every morning hoping that you’ll ask them to “sit” or “come” even if they’re going to get a cookie for doing it. I’d bet a lot of money that one of the things they hope and desire is for you to understand them better. They also want you to understand if they live to run, or fetch, or swim, or socialize with other dogs – and for your help in making it happen.
Why does it matter? Because thinking about what your dog wants is a key step in having a mutually beneficial relationship with your dog. They’re dependent on you for everything from food to transportation! They can’t go buy balls or enroll in fun activities on their own. We’ve created a world for them where we provide so much, but they also have little freedom or control over their own lives. A wolf or a coyote makes more decisions in a day than the average dog!
My challenge for you today is to identify at least one thing that your dog wants, and then do what you can to make that happen consistently. Maybe it’s a particular kind of toy, cuddle time with you, or to be left alone when they’re relaxing in the sun! Make it your business to want things for your dog, not just from your dog. Help them get what they want! Both you and your dog will be glad that you did. I guarantee it!