Being Wholehearted with our dogs – part 2 – Letting go of perfectionism.
How does this apply to our lives with our dogs? I see it in a few ways. I work in a public park with my clients and their dogs. Off lead dogs will sometimes come up and jump on me because I have treats in my pocket. The owner will then shout “get down” at their dog. Given that this cry is making zero difference to whether the dog jumps on me or not, it’s the embarrassment or shame of their dog jumping up on the trainer which motivates them to do it.
Having a dog which jumps on people and not having their slightly unruly dog on a long line are both examples of this perfectionism. It’s not perfect that their dog jumps on people, so the feel shame. It’s not perfect that they may need to have their dog on a long line while training, so they feel shame. The dog often bears the brunt of that perfectionism, and I don’t think that’s fair.
There is a hose attached to the vet’s surgery at the park for people to rinse the mud off their dog. I often see dogs in the dead of winter being fully hosed down so that every last piece of dirt is removed before they get back into the car. I even witnessed two small dogs being given a shampoo in December. In Scotland. Both dogs stood shivering after their cold shower, scrub and shampoo. This is a pretty good example of perfectionism.
I don’t compete in sports with my dogs. I have zero interest in it. This might be an unpopular opinion but I see too many dogs, given too hard a time because of the projection of the handler/trainer on to them. The dog misses a turn, stop, position or hurdle and the human gets pissed off. The dog won’t come off the sleeve, they get corrected on a electric or metal collar. Cues are repeated with harsh emotion behind them.
Again, the dog suffers because we want stuff to be perfect. Please. Your dog deserves better, it’s not the end of the world. Then the shame starts and the “He can’t even get his dog to…” from others. Then the dog pays for that. So be kind to others.
Part 3 to come.