Everybody wants the Majik Elixer that will transport them from whatever misery they are experiencing into a realm of … whatever they envision as being ideal.
Samesies. I do too. I think we all do.
Dog owners want that more than anybody, I think. Especially if they are experiencing issues that they cannot control. Aggression, anxiety, destructiveness, whatever.
What they don’t realize is these are the symptoms, not the disease, and the vast majority of dog problems are people problems.
So, when I get an inquiry from someone because their 12 year old rescue hound mix from the bowels of west Tennessee gets transported up here (with heartworm and internal parasites indigenous to wildlife in the deep south), and a headful of “I don’ wanna”, I have to ask myself what is it worth to *me* to take on this client.
It is an intellectual challenge, to take on a dog with a quantum physics level of behavioral history, and it’s not like it’s insurmountable, but at what cost, and to whom goes the final tab?
The dog wouldn’t be a candidate for a boarding and training environment in any ethical scenario, and I seriously doubt that ownership is capable of understanding that their sympathy for this dog’s lot in life has surely reinforced his sense of urgency in the presence of food, or his degree of entitlement, now that he has bitten 3 of the 4 members of the household.
Dog training shouldn’t be that hard, but the current political climate that surrounds dog training has made it one of the most difficult experiences I have ever had; and I include recovery from drug addiction, smoking cessation and childbearing among those memories.
It doesn’t have to be that way, but people are still convinced that dogs are computer chips that occasionally malfunction, that you can simply degauss and then rewrite the operating software.
It doesn’t work that way. Not in the broader sense. The degaussing takes time, and that memory is never completely erased. Dogs with protracted histories of specific behavioral tendencies maintain them throughout their lives, and can resurface without much effort.
When a person calls a professional and asks for help, our inclination is to provide it. I welcome questions and encourage them throughout the interview.
I think part of my problem is I don’t hide behind slick advertising and empty promises. I tell people exactly what I think, exactly how long I think it would take, and what will be required in terms of effort and duration in order to see any tangible results.
Most dogs, if caught relatively early, we can remediate successfully and *expect* durable change. The pattern of training never changes; begin at the beginning, work through the middle, conclude at the end. What that looks like time-wise for each dog is vastly different, but the process is largely the same, dog to dog.
What we cannot assure, and where owners fail to understand is that our expectations cannot exceed their own, and when I am asked what *my* expectations are at the end of training, part of me wants to scream “HAVEYOUBEENLISTENING?” or even “My expectations cannot exceed your own. What do *you* expect?”
Your 12 year old dog is certainly capable of learning, as are you. Learning doesn’t stop because of age. Malleability is decreased as we age, but not necessarily as a byproduct of the physical aspect of maturity and ultimate decay.
We stop learning because nothing opposes our views. We stop learning because “I’ve had dogs all my life” seems to confer all knowledge of all things dog to the layman, but not to the trainer, that sits before you, with a collective experience of handling tens of thousands of dogs over the course of a lifetime.
Fifty-one years, in fact. 44 of those years professionally as a trainer, groom, kennel manager, handler, and a variety of other tasks where I was paid for my expertise, or grew my expertise through the volume and the tenure of my work.
One would think that that fact alone would contribute some gravitas, and if not, the simple, non-confrontational demonstration of how to get a dog to change his behavior and make him think it was his idea, should have.
But no. Your sympathy for this dog’s plight, and your unwillingness to alter your behavior even slightly in order to encourage your dog to alter his, tells me that this would not be a successful relationship.
I cannot change anything that wishes not to be changed.
Just like in the Serenity Prayer, my adopted mantra as of late:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Trust me, I know the difference.