You matter. You are important. And, dare I say it, you are more valuable than your pet.
I know this concept is taboo in today’s society, but I believe it to be true. Our society has taught us to believe that our dog’s happiness far exceeds the value of our own. I simply do not agree. Yes, we should care for our animals and ensure that they have proper food, water, shelter, medical attention, and socialization (and training!). That does not, however, mean that they get to rule the home and do whatever they please at your expense.
I have several clients who start to look anxious at the very mention of going to the park. They’ve had so many horrible experiences because of their dogs’ behavior that they experience a stress trigger just thinking about it. Even the ones who aren’t experiencing that level of stress usually say, longingly, “I just want to be able to go to the park again.”
While there are always exceptions to the rule, I have found that these dogs can typically make vast improvements with a little boundary setting and self-control. In the image below, you will see my Labrador, Tucker, and a client’s dog, Archer, walking side by side at the Greenway. We did a few lessons at my shop and then ventured to the park. Archer’s owner had become very wary of taking him out as he had become very dog reactive and somewhat aggressive. While at the park, Archer not only walked happily with his new buddy, Tucker, but was able to pass by other client dogs we ran into with much more composure. It was the first time in a long time that his owner had felt in control enough to walk him around other dogs.
Interestingly enough, while checking out kennels in my area this month, I saw Archer and his brother at a boarding facility. Upon telling the kennel owner that I knew him and why, she said, “I just told his owner yesterday that he’d been so much better behaved this time. Now I know why!” Boundary setting and teaching self-control can have an effect on so many areas of your dog’s life – and can reduce the anxiety that is often the root of the poor behavior.
So, don’t disregard your own happiness and quality of life. If your dog is making you miserable – do something about it! Don’t let our society tell you that setting boundaries and rules makes you a bad owner. We always want to treat our dogs humanely and with respect, but that doesn’t mean letting them run the show at your expense. Yes, your dog matters – but YOU matter, too!