Inviting a new puppy, dog or any pet to share our life comes with a lot of different feelings. Happy, excited, nervous, scared are all swimming around together. Being kind to our new pets may seem obvious but it is only one part of the puzzle. Kindness does not happen in a vacuum. Pets act in ways that can be frustrating and annoying. If it’s a young pup you may also be a bit sleep deprived and you are trying to manage the new relationships that are being created in your home. I was thinking about all this when it occurred to me that another large part of a good puppy management routine is empathy. I try to imagine what it must be like for a young pup to come into my alien world.
Puppies have about 40x better sense of smell than humans. Dogs get a lot of information about the world from their nose. So, when you take your puppy out for a business trip, it is no surprise that they spend a lot of time sniffing. As they move through the grass, cones of scent are released and scent engulfs their nose and brain. Your puppy is creating an impression of the world based on that scent information.
In this alien world, I often imagine friendly little green monsters that pop up all over the place. Dogs don’t have the best visual acuity but they see motion quite well. I wonder what it would be like if I was out walking in a new neighbourhood and a friendly green monster popped up right in front of me or maybe dashed across the street. I would be sooo excited!! I would probably want to chase it and see where it went or check out where it came from! My sister, who is a bit timid, may be scared of the green monster and try to hide or run away. The point is, that to a puppy, the world is FULL of little green monsters. Their reactions vary but the world is full of so many exciting things. We need to remember that when setting expectations for our new pets. Like people, their reactions may not always meet our expectations.
One of my dogs came to us as a rescue from a kill shelter in another province. She travelled 900 kms in a van with a bunch of other dogs. When she arrived, she waited in an ex-pen for us to collect her. She then travelled another hour in my car with a few excited children. When we got her home, she immediately went in the bathtub because, I mean, she had just come out of a pretty messy situation. She did not have any toilet accidents. She did all this while being sweet and never displaying fear or aggression. Did I mention she also had to meet my other dogs? That is a lot to expect over a 12 hour period. I marveled at her composure. I am quite sure I would have been a basket case in a similar scenario! It never occurred to me that this was a lot to expect from a dog.
An expectation is an interesting idea. Puppies carry a lot of expectations on their little backs. They are expected to be friendly at all times to all people and other dogs. We expect them to not chew anything, obey commands at the drop of a hat, be ready to participate in walks politely and to use the “outside” bathroom. They need to be our best friends, emotional support and teach our children about compassion and empathy. That is a lot to expect from a friend who is also trying to figure out the rules for living in our people world. The crazy thing is that they do it for nothing more than a kind word and maybe a few liver treats!
For empathetic training tips and management techniques, check out www.mypuppytracker.com. There is a detailed housetraining routine.