I have a lot of dogs. Training guide dogs and being self-employed, means I always have at least three dogs living with me. The dog who always stays through all the madness, is my beloved Mowgli. He’s been with me for a glorious 10 years. Lately he has had a few dizzy episodes, which landed us in the vet’s office. Monty, my puppy, came along for all the fun so he could get acquainted with the vet’s office at an early age.
As we’re waiting for our turn, I hear the assistant helping a new dog owner over the phone; „He ate… Uh huh, oh that too? How much of the shoe cream did he end up eating? That much, huh? Okay, well come on by.“ Ah, puppies… So we’re up and we go in for some treats and Mowgli gets his blood tested and all that. Turns out he is fine (as far as we can tell), and I just need to keep an eye on it. He’s getting old… As we wait for the machine to come up with his blood results, we take a seat again in the waiting room. Mowgli and Monty lay down and take a nap.
Already from half way down the street, I could hear this lady approaching. She was cooing at her puppy and telling him to leave this and leave that and come hear and quit it … all in one breath.
When the door to the waiting room opened, her dog leaped in, choking as the collar pulled back and the lady looked at me and started rolling her eyes at and complaining about her puppy. Turns out her puppy was the one who ate the shoe cream. She sat across from me. Mowgli and Monty looked up, saw the excited puppy and decided it would be best to stay close to me. We made some small talk and I asked how old her cute Golden Retriever pooch was. Four months old! Although Monty looks like a puppy and is still small, she assumed he was almost a year old due to his calmness. When she asked how old he is and I said he was the same age as hers, she didn’t believe me.
This isn’t supposed to be a post about how „well behaved“ Monty was that day in the vet’s office (because believe me, he has his bad days!) compared to the other puppy. What I wanted to bring to light was our two very different ways of raising puppies: when I have a puppy, I give them some slack because they are still „a kid“ and make sure to keep sessions short, but I still expect them to behave once they know how to. I never think „Oh, he’s just a puppy — he doesn’t know any better.“ Instead I think, „He’s a puppy, and he doesn’t know how to act, but he needs to learn now, before it just becomes who he is as an adult when it becomes close to impossible to change some things. Now is the small window of time where I can correct these behaviours.“
The lady at the vet, like many puppy owners, believed that she had no control over her puppy and there was no way to avoid her dog chewing up everything and pulling on the leash.
She didn’t expect her dog to behave well, so he didn’t.
I thought it was interesting to think about. They were exactly the same age, roughly the same breed (except that Monty is crossed with Poodle), but their behaviour was completely different. Of course, just like people, dogs each have their own personality and they can vary drastically. Some puppies really are miniature devils, but even that can be worked with. I’ve mentioned it before, and I am writing this post now to mention it again … most of us don’t expect enough from our animals. We think that they can’t do any better than misbehave. Everything is just „good enough“. Monty knows his boundaries and eagerly listens to me, purely because of how I raised him. Knowing his personality and how smart he is, I am positive that if I had switched puppies with that lady at the vet’s when they were younger, they would be different dogs but the situation would be the same. Monty could just as well be the naughty puppy and her dog seemed smart enough to be well behaved.
I always say — the problematic dogs are almost always the very smart ones.