You adopt or buy a new puppy or dog.
You bring it home and spread your arms wide, signaling “welcome to your new life of luxury!”
You promise to give your dog the best life ever and show them all around their new home allowing them to sniff out every square inch of your crib. You take them over to the new bed you bought them, show them all the cool new toys strewn all over the living room floor. You’re so excited!
You scoop them up and sit on the couch and adoringly stare at their sweet face while kissing them all over and telling them you love them!
You vow to provide every possible thing they could ever want, need or beg for. After all, what else in life loves so unconditionally? Who else is so loyal, faithful and adoring of you?
Mark this moment forever as it’s the beginning of the next 5 to 15 plus years of your life. You have two choices: continue to provide all the rewards your freely giving without expectations OR identify yourself as the leader you must be to have that respectful relationship you will yearn for later. If your dog misunderstands what your rules and boundaries are now because you didn’t make it more clear, you’ll be calling for help after they get to a less manageable size and they have developed behaviors more difficult to undo.
Mark this moment in time because you’re actually making that decision RIGHT NOW.
You don’t look forward to each morning when you have to leave your new little shadow, go spend hours surrounded by people who nag you, complain about all the things you didn’t get done and forget to appreciate you for all the things you did without acknowledgment. All day long you just can’t wait to get back home to smother the one thing in your life that is always happy to see you: your dog.
Once a relationship has been defined, you’ve been taken advantage of, you’ve let your guard completely down and you’ve shown your weaknesses, it’s far more difficult and sometimes impossible to redefine and re-establish authority. Consider your relationships with humans in your life. Is this ringing any familiar bells? I certainly hope not, but for so many people I work with daily, I’m also a soundboard for life’s problems. I know firsthand how easy it is to love so hard leaving you scratching your head in wonder how your dog ever ended up deciding no one should come in the home without their permission or walk in front of your house without barking uncontrollably. You know how?
You didn’t do the following so…
Do yourself (and your dog) a favor.
Set boundaries immediately. Create structure. Create separation so your dog doesn’t develop anxiety. Dogs actually love boundaries. They feel fulfilled accomplishing things you’ve asked. They need a job.
Every. Dog. Needs. A. Job.
Being the animal in your life that is exposed to all your heavy emotions everyday, your own anxiety, frustrations about life, sadness, anger, etc is a HUGE job for them. That’s not the job I’m referring to. Let that sink in please. They are not fit to be your therapist. They need to know you will keep them safe, they can trust you, and that you are their rock. If you continuously only show them your instabilities, they will move into a role of protection, develop anxiety, and become unstable too. Then, here come the issues and behaviors you’ll call to try to get a handle on later.
Be the pet parent your dog hopes for. Train them. Expect from them. Help them feel fulfilled. The result? A calm, happy, stable dog. The dog you always hoped for. It’s not too late.