I’d like to dispel any skewed visions of how *awesomely behaved* my pets are since I work for the Behavior Service. When I sit down in the exam room with a client to discuss behavior modification, I often share my personal training challenges I’ve experienced with my own pets. It gives them perspective; after all, we aren’t training gods. Nay, we‘re mere mortals with pets who can create mayhem and foolishness in our lives too. This often eases tension, because there’s less fear of judgment from the situation they’re facing.
I’ve yet to meet a trainer or Behaviorist who can (truthfully) proclaim that their pet is “perfect” in every way. That type of animal is as rare as a fabled unicorn. Though I adore my pets, they all have their own quirks. Personally, I own a Beagle (insinkerator) who’s so devoted to all things “food” that he’s managed to get into child-locked trash cans and unscrewed the lid on his bear-container-like food receptacle (he looked like a hippo after the feeding frenzy). I kid you not, if he had an opposable thumb, I’d be hosed. He’d be building a drone to assist him in food acquisition from elevated surfaces, much to my dismay.
After a long day, I occasionally feel my dogs are like the cobblers children who run around shoeless; they can be rude little beasts begging at the table, but hey, that indulgence isn’t going to kill anyone, so why not? We’re not immune from feeling tired and, frankly, lazy. The good thing is that we have the knowledge and skills to tweak things to set it all right again…when compelled.
The reason our advice works so well is because we don’t live our client’s lives. We aren’t suffering from the frustration, fear and anger that the owners are faced with each day. With our perspective, we’re emotionally removed and able to lend an objective eye to resolve the conflict. We can’t be totally devoid of emotion though. The fact that we’ve been down similar paths with our own pets provides a font of empathy, so we understand the emotions that put up road blocks to progress. Many times it’s not just the pet’s behavior causing a disconnect; it’s also the owner’s feelings of shame, failure or judgment that keeps people from seeking appropriate help in the first place.
We’re real people who love and understand animals, but we’re not immune from having pets that make poor choices. The next time your dog does something that drives you crazy, please think of me walking into the house to find pickle juice, coffee grounds and the dregs of several days of who-knows-what all over my carpet with a Beagle happily wagging his tail in greeting. Oh, and don’t forget the part where I walk out the front door again, counting to ten to avoid a barrage of NC-17 language that’s dying to roll off my tongue.