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.