Unrealistic Expectations


Dennis and His old buddy Beau



        Hello everyone, I wanted to talk about a topic that I feel does not get much attention. I am calling this unrealistic expectations.  Recently we had some friends over to our home for four days.  My wife Pam and her friends we attending Terry Ryans amazing chicken camp.  Chicken camp is a place where students learn to work with another species(chickens) to help make their clicker skills better.  You might be asking yourself ” well does it work” I can say as a student of Terry’s in the past that it really does and is a fun time as well.  The friends we had visiting are both dog trainers and very savvy as far as dog behavior and were very respectful of our dogs, all six of them.  I had a talk with Pam before they arrived as far as what to expect as we do not have much company and our dogs do get very excited as should be expected, they all love people.   Our dogs do not live in a bubble and are exposed to many different things and in my opinion are very well socialized.  We do have a jumper in our family and her name is Snickers( rescue girl) and is a year and a half American Staffordshire terrier and has all the personality of a Diva.  We have worked very hard to teach Snickers that there really is no reward in jumping but sometimes the best laid plans can be destroyed by friends and family.  Like all dogs ours are no different as they have different personalities and behaviors that we manage and many that we are very proud of( they love people). I have to admit that we do let our dogs get away with a lot when it is just Pam and I.  They get to sleep in the bed, they are allowed to lick the plates after dinner( some find this repulsive), they get to sit in the chair with us and soemtimes they get rewarded for behaviors that some would find crazy. When I talked with Pam she had said that one of the ladies that was staying with us finds licking the plates is just about the nastiest thing on the planet, I said I am not going to change or even expect our dogs to be any different when we have company as I did not think it was fair( i did concede by just not giving the dogs the plates to clean). After all they have been allowed to do some of these behaviors which for them and us are considered( normal everyday behaviors) so why do they have to be expected to change for our guest?  Our guest arrived and the usual barking and excitement happened as did the jumping by Snickers.  She does not jump on us any more but no matter what I tell people they just cannot ignore her or pay attention when she is in the Diva mode.  We did have some jumping and yes the ladies told her no and off all the usual stuff they know better not to do as it does not work especially when they do respond to the word they are immediately rewarded with a good girl or good boy( oops, do I see a behavior chain happening?) dogs are masters at building behavior chains.  I am happy to report that by the end of the visit Snickers was no longer jumping after I explained how Snickers learned to build this behavior chain by our former pet sitter. I do have some expectations of all of our dogs but cannot expcet them to behave any different with others than with us at home.  After all it is us that have trained them( not perfectly) but trained none the lesss.  I have so much to be proud of in our dogs.  They have never bitten any person, they rarely have any scuffles and if they do they are over very fast.  They are all amazing around food and accept any person or dogs( in their group) around their stuff and food without incident.  They all walk very nicely on a leash and hardly ever bark unless when they are concerned about something or during play.  I see so many people embarrassed by their dogs behavior and many of my clients apologize for their dogs, I tell them” there is nothing to apologize for” in the hopes of making them feel less guilty about what they have taught them either on purpose or just by chance.  In closing I want to remind you that the next time you have company over and expect your dogs to behave any different than they do when it is just you and your family you just might be expecting something that will not happen.  I also want to remind you that you also get excited when you have guest over, especially the ones you have not seen in awhile.  You hug, you cry, you give high fives, you laugh and carry on so how is it not acceptable for your dogs to behave any different, they just do it in their own way.  So now is the time to start preparing for the real world by training your dogs the way you would like them to be when they are confronted by the real world. Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)