Time Well Spent

When someone adopts a new dog with problems like aggression, timidity or fears, they frequently assume the dog was abused.  Even people who adopt young puppies from the shelter often think their timid, fearful pup must have been abused. The truth is the dog was probably born on the timid side and is lacking in understanding and positive experiences.  Not that real abuse doesn’t exist, but it is often used as an excuse for a socially uneducated dog.

Many people think providing the basics of food, shelter and water is enough, and while they are essential to the survival of the body, what about the heart, mind and soul? Take no notice of a fish and he couldn’t care less, but dogs are intelligent, social and emotional creatures who depend on us to provide them with: love, play, socialization, grooming, stimulation, structure, and boundaries in addition to the basics. Being left in the yard all day and the kitchen all night is not good enough; it is merely a few steps up from neglect.

Neglected dogs are likely to suffer from fears, insecurities, aggression, nuisance barking, running away, lunging at other animals & people, destroying things, and a gamut of neurotic disorders.  All because their people did not take the time to teach them the world is a wonderful place, how to behave, or keep them from being bored.   Inattentiveness can be as much about failing to engage your dog as it is about relegating them to the back yard.  You might be in the same room together, but if you don’t communicate with your dog they might as well be alone.  They are free to do as they please, and become impatient, independent and often insecure.  Rather like children without a teacher don’t learn to respect others or have manners.  Your dog needs your leadership; caring and patience so that he can learn to choose good behavior and be thoughtful in his actions.

Today our lives are busier than ever, and people aren’t as social as they rush from job to home to kids activities.  No one has time enough for themselves let alone a dog. 

When you bring a dog home you need to rethink your life, and how you will spend your days together.  Even if your dog spends the whole day with you in the house it does not replace being out in the world.  It would be like saying your child is socially healthy because they have siblings – it’s an incomplete picture.  There is no substitute for real life experiences. Dogs need guidance from you to show them the way in the world, just like kids need parents to guide them and teach them good manners.  Confidence comes from understanding, manners come from teaching, and emotional well-being comes from positive experiences.

Your dog does not have to schedule you into his day – you are his day. Dogs benefit from structure and engagement just like everyone else, so you need to become someone he can count on for support, guidance and leadership.  It is really simple, the more you do with your dog the better your relationship will be.   You aren’t likely to go to the gym for an hour if you don’t schedule it into your day, just as you aren’t likely to take the time to train the dog, brush him, or walk him unless you schedule it into your day.  The benefits aren’t only huge for your dog but for you too.  Walking your dog for an hour is better than going to the gym, brushing him gets the hair off of the couch, and training him reminds him that you care.  It might add up to less time on Twitter, but it all means the world to your dog.  He gets your special attention for a part of everyday, while he learns manners, looks spectacular with a clean coat, and the outings give him a great chance to learn the world is a wonderful place. His smile says it all “Thanks for loving me”.