Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dogs as Individuals

Something I don't understand are the people who do not allow their dogs to be individuals. These people dress their dogs alike and their dogs do everything together. In some cases the dogs cannot even be separated because their owner has set it up so the dogs are so bonded to each other they cannot be apart. I've also seen a few scenarios where Dog A loves to fetch but Dog B does not, so the dog owner makes it their mission to teach Dog B that fetch is fun.

You can teach a dog a lot of behaviors, but you cannot teach natural drive.

Don't get me wrong, you can build up the drive that the dog already has, but Dog A - who loves to fetch, will always be better/faster/happier at it than Dog B who is doing it because you taught them to/you've given them some type of incentive - not because they inherently have the drive for it.

I think it is a really easy trap to fall into. I have three dogs with varying levels of toy and prey drive. It would be awesome if they would all play with the flirt pole - it's a quick and easy way to wear my dogs out. However, only Seppel and LiLo enjoy the flirt pole. It would be just as awesome if they could all do IPO. However neither Seth nor LiLo have the drive for bite work that Seppel has. While it can make my life difficult in some ways, I am really learning to appreciate each dog as an individual. This became extremely apparent to me after taking Seth and Seppel swimming last night.

Yesterday was super hot. I decided to take Seth and Seppel to a local park to go swimming. I have had it in my head that I would love to try dock diving with Seppel. When we got to the park and started playing I quickly realized that Seth is far more driven in the water than Seppel is.

Seppel has no problems fetching his ball [or a toy] from the water, but he is extremely careful about it. I don't think he dislikes the water - he will gladly go in, but he is cautious. I think he enjoys playing fetch and I think he enjoys going for the ball, but it is not his favorite game - much like dry land fetch is.

Seth on the other hand seems to really enjoy swimming and fetching the ball in the water. He is super fast about it and jumps right in. When we pulled up to the park today Seth was super excited and vocal, he knew what we were going to do and he was ready to go!

It really got me thinking as we headed home last night how different Seth and Seppel are. I had high hopes for Seth to do IPO [before I had Seppel] and because it is something I can do with Seppel I have put a lot of my focus on him. Watching Seth going after the ball in the creek made me really start thinking about his potential for doing dock dogs. It also made me realize that I need to accept that dock dogs is probably something Seppel will ever do. I can probably teach him to jump off of a dock, or build his confidence in the water so he becomes faster - but he simply does not have the drive for it that Seth does. That's perfectly OKAY! It's exciting to me to find something different that Seth can do [and enjoy!].

I really do appreciate the differences between my three dogs. Between the boys I have dogs I can do various sports with, and with LiLo I can rely on her to behave when I take her places - she is a wonderful companion dog. I appreciate that I can take all three of them somewhere and they can run around together and get along, but I am really happy with their individual personalities and individual strengths that they have to do different things. I also appreciate that I can separate them all, and while the dogs who have to stay home might be bummed - they don't completely fall apart and lose it.

In closing, I just think it's important to recognize and appreciate your dogs for who they are. To accept the drive that they have or don't have, to be happy with who each of them are, as individual dogs.


  1. That's really awesome that Seth enjoys the water so much! It's cool that they both enjoy it in different ways.

    With my dogs, I sometimes dress them alike for fun but I am completely aware they are two different dogs.

    I think my thing has been excepting Zoe for who she is, not that she's going to be just like Phoenix and enjoy the same things, but for who she is and that she is probably not ever going to want to play any of my games no matter what I come up with. If it's not a bunny running in front of her she's probably not going to care. That's a hard pill to swallow. I've put a lot of effort and work into her and it just kind of sucks that all she wants to do is kill things. I'm better about it now then I was a few years ago but sometimes it still sucks. With that being said, sometimes she has to participate in the things we are doing, whether she likes it or not. Sometimes as a family we are playing in the river and she can sit on the beach and whine about it or she can come in the river and play too. It's her choice, but that's what we're doing. I could leave her at home but I don't always feel like doing that and she needs exercise, too. LOL

    I'm really glad that I do have Phoenix who is more than willing to play my games and is actually driven to do some work with me. I love both of my dogs very much but it's definitely different.

    1. I think we are really lucky to have multiple dogs that we can do different things with.

      Seth is so low drive, other than figuring out this swimming thing, I wouldn't be able to do anything with him if it required a lot of toy or prey drive - both of which he has little of. I'm thankful I can do dogsport with Seppel and that Lilo likes to play with toys.

      I used to feel bad leaving one or two of them behind. I don't worry about it so much anymore and while they all need to go out and exercise, if I take one, I'm sure to exercise the other two when we get home.