Trailhound, Hamiltonstovare and Labrador
My dog as my therapist

Judgement in the dog world – is it a good thing?

Interaction with the dogsI find the world of dog ownership rife with judgmental attitudes, both from dog owners and non-dog owners alike.  Your dog should do this , it shouldn't do that.  As a dog owner you should be like this, or this, or this.  Dogs should be exercised this many times, should be fed this food ....Maybe its just me.  I tend to be a judgmental person, although I'm working on it, and mostly towards myself.  My (lack of) prowess as a dog handler is a prominent target for my negative self-talk.  Why can't I have calm mannerly dogs, why can't I have perfect recall with my hounds, why can't I control my wonderful labrador? Are my dogs barking causing the neighbours a problem?  (My neighbour generously says not, but maybe me screaming at them to separate a dog fight does because she rang me up to check if I was ok 🙁 )

Judgement in the dog world from dog trainers as well.  This is not a dig at dog-trainers, its my frustration at not being able to naturally be like them.  Have you ever worked with a dog trainer who says, in a knowing way, 'someone who has a problem getting their dog to come back, you have to wonder about the owner'?  I have, in fact several.  And I want to shout….'right, so it’s the owner, but what can I DO about it?!' ….. but I don't because then I am stepping into that cloak of shame, the person that can't get their dog to come back to them, and I'm already judging myself on it enough myself.  And, in many cases, I don't think the dog trainer would have been able to tell me, because they are naturally good at developing rapport with their dogs - it comes naturally to them.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this judgement.  My dog owner friends and the dog groups I am a member on are testimony to this. There's often quite heated discussions on dog training facebook forums when people share their opinions on how to resolve dog training issues. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how your dogs should behave.  I confess, I have been one of the worst offenders in the past.  I wanted to have the perfectly trained dogs, do everything right by them, have them all by my side, attentive.  And I judged others that didn't seem to want to do everything right by their dogs. I wanted people to look at me and say 'look at those hounds, she's done a smashing job with them, difficult dogs to train you know'….etc etc.

Well it hasn't worked out like that so far.  I am on a much more exciting journey  🙂  I have learnt so much about myself, by exploring the emotions that come up  for me when I am with my dogs.

I have learnt that I desperately want harmony and get aggressive when I can't achieve it!  If that doesn't sound like a contradiction in terms 🙂  Logan, my trailhound, is the same.  As soon as Jack, my hamiltonstovare, gets excited Logan puts him down.  The result, 70lb Jack tiptoes round the house to keep the peace, and runs around with a stick in his mouth when the other two start rough tumbling in the garden.  And then I get angry with Logan for terrorising Jack - yes your dog is truly your mirror!

But, I can also be like Jack.  I have spent a large part of my life restricting my needs to accommodate the needs of others to the extent that I was forced to change.  I didn’t have the in-built stress relief that Jack uses - lift a leg in a corner of the house for a pee to release pressure. I collapsed in stress and had to dramatically change circumstances in my life.  And at first I blamed outside factors - marriage, work, my inadequacy, rather than see the situation as a natural progression, in the way I had learnt to repress my own needs to gain the affection of others.

And Archie the labrador?  Well he can't sit still, and yes maybe I should have calmed him down by now, but I have struggled with that when I considered it as repression, a hang-up from my own way of being in the world.  And I can relate to constant excitement, because I am also hugely excited about the opportunities that the world has to offer, which can get me ungrounded at times.  If I had a tail I'm sure it would be wagging ten to the dozen, and in times of stress I DO like my food!

And one I'm working on at the moment - when I do get their full attention...I can't handle it!  Work in progress 🙂

That is just a small insight into what my dogs have taught me so far, by observing and reflecting on my emotions in interacting with them.  As I gain a better understanding of myself, I gain a better understanding of them, and the learning that I am gaining is so much more than I could ever have imagined from dog ownership, because it helps me truly be myself in this world.   So now when I see or hear of people and their 'problem' dog experiences I see a person's relationship with their dog as an ecosystem, and it is as it is for a reason.  In my view its all about healing.

If you would like to share your thoughts how you experience judgement in the dog world,  please do  🙂

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  1. I had a dog that did everything perfect,Dancer and I have a dog that does everything that is not Lupine..she pees and kicks up the lawn where she pees in some dust busting excitement of her act, chases cars,dogs, cats, ups (if she had access)”anything that is not her” a trainer once said..the other dog trained her as much as he could growing up. I am eternally grateful to Dancer dog but my wild dog gave the other dog a new lease on life and a friendship he loved til he died. I have learned to laugh at being embarrassed as my dog Lupine’s antics meet the world’s oh my dear looks and also understanding in other owner’s of dogs eyes, and I have also seen the wisdom in her sudden actions. I cannot tell you the judgements I have been given by people watching my dog look like Old Yeller on Rabies or Grizzly Adams but some of that same response yielding her taking on a bear that was right in front of me on the trail and stood up(literally) to it, and another time took us down a trail on her belly when winds came up suddenly and we were blinded by the weeds cutting our faces thick with seeds flying. I have understood just some of she and I but have seen her range and oddness mirror my own, and seen it mirror my own spirit and certainly heart. I loved Dancer dog and I love Lupine as they are and often laugh. The way she reacts is a challenged, and hard to find where to be in a urban reality, where to walk and how much vigilance that is required but slowly I get things . I know most of all Iwant to be on this journey with her and myself not romantically but some kind of gift of loving for itself, witnessing my reactions, my conditioning, Lupine at times a tough teacher that did not let me get off with the ease of Buddha nature dog Dancer, like the finishing touches of existence in dog packaging and a huge gift. Judgements come and they go and so will my dog, myself and yet unresolved emotion is what moves life forward as Kevin said in his book. I do not grasp it very fast or without alot of tripping over myself but there Lupine is, for now, in my rear view mirror with this look of here we are.

    1. Oh Nanda, what a lovely account of your experience with Lupine – gives me goosebumps reading it 🙂 I don’t grasp it very fast either, except to know it is all for a reason. Thankyou for sharing 🙂

  2. I’m guilty of judging dog owners but over the past few years it’s gotten a lot better. I adopted a reactive dog that also has a bad resource guarding problem and it changed my opinion. I’m not so quick to judge anymore. She’s taught me a lot about myself, I’ve learned to improvise better. I have to think ahead and plan things out. It’s weird but it’s pretty calming. She is doing much better as well. We just keep it positive and realize what the boundaries are. I know her problems are mostly fear based, and I love seeing her make progress, it makes me proud. I feel a lot closer to her than I have with previous dogs because all of the training we’ve done together.

    I get so frustrated when people make bad comments about her behavior, like you I’m looking for assistance; I don’t need to feel any worse about it.

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s a beautiful post.

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for sharing your experiences – it seems to be the ‘difficult’ situations that give us the greatest learning, if we are up for embracing it. I agree with you – acceptance of what is rather than judgement helps enormously! Love as well by the way 🙂

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