Accepting the dog you have (Expectations vs. Reality)
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
By Brianna Dick
Sometimes the most difficult part of life is letting go of our expectations and accepting reality. Letting go of the perfect house we wanted, job, partner, child, relationship, dog etc. Our expectations often lead us down a path of disappointment and frustration. Expectations cloud our perception and we have created unfair burdens on the people or things we have expectations for.
When I meet with owners I hear the story of the dog they think they have, wish they had or use to have. They got this dog expecting it would be trained, or it wouldn't be so frantic, sensitive, aggressive, out of control, they wanted a dog who was good with kids, good with chaos, good with other dogs, new people, a dog who could emotionally support them as their crutch.
They expected a great dog without considering what the dog needed.
Unfortunately, when you get a dog you usually don't know who they will grow up to be or who they really are going to be in your environment until you set up the relationship. Yes, each dog is an individual and each dog will have their own level of sensitivity, confidence, and drives but it's up to the owner to create a balanced and happy dog. It is super rare, and by sheer luck, that owners get a dog who is happy-go-lucky and bombproof (very confident).
It's my job to tell the dog's story and tell the owner, no you don't have a dog who is capable of being a therapy dog, emotional support animal or with children day in and day out. No, you don't have a dog who will succeed in doggy daycare and highly excitable environments with other dogs. No, your dog won't feel safe without a structured home life and lots of exercise.
I burst the bubble of expectation and help the owner see the dog in front of them. For many owners, this is an incredibly difficult pill to swallow. They had all these ideas of how their dog would travel with them and be at a dog park, how their dog would greet their friends when they came over, how their dog would play fetch off leash or cuddle them every night because they wanted love.
See the dog in front of you. Not the name, not the breed but the energy behind all of those things. See the dog in the moment not your Fido who you love so much who you cuddle with on the couch and feed treats to. Don't get caught up in the idea of who your dog is. This is when you will take their behavior personally. Just see the dog as who they truly are.
Maybe your dog is nervous around dogs right now, let go of the expectation that they should be good around dogs.
Maybe your dog is uncomfortable around humans touching them, let go of the expectation that he should be pet by everyone.
Maybe you keep comparing your dog to how they previously acted or a former dog, let go of the expectation of who your dog was previously and work with the dog you have in the moment.
This is not to say that you should accept bad behavior, because you should absolutely be working towards balance every single day. The rehabiltiation process starts and ends with the owner.
Instead of longing for something more, embrace the dog in front of you.