Give them what they want!

As part my training services, I offer board & train. For many folks this is a very interesting option because they can either travel or just take a break from their pup while I work with them.  Because the pup is going to be staying at my home, I do have certain requirements such as all dogs must get along.

Recently I had an inquiry from a potential client that needed to leave her newly acquired dog in good care while she traveled. I met with her and her dog, and based on what I learned during the Initial consult I was on the fence regarding her dog and mine being a good match. There was only one way to find out, so we move forward with the next step in the process which is to bring all the dogs together for an off leash meet & greet.

Initially both Deuce and Rio exited their crates with excitement as they always show when there is the possibility of meeting someone new – dog or person.

My biggest concern in this meet & greet was between Rio and my client’s dog – another adult female. Perhaps you know this, but adult female dogs are very choosy in whom they choose as a close pal. And when the match is not a good one and if they get into a brawl, this can very well be an injurious one. In any case, the first part of the compatibility “test” went well so we proceed with less restricted interactions and “play”. At some point my client’s dog, which frankly did so much better than I expected, was minding her own business when Deuce approached her and began to growl at her. Clearly she was not doing anything “wrong” and Deuce was just being a putts.

I called him off without any further incident, but it was very clear by now that this was not a match made in heaven!

For whatever reason Deuce decided he was not too enamored of this new and possible playmate. As a result of this, I proceeded to explain to my client that her dog had done nothing wrong but that unfortunately the B&T was not an option. Deuce, I said, is the one that is being the problem here…. yep, I did have some egg sliding on my face, if you want to know the truth.

I could have said: “Sure, I will keep your dog and well Deuce is just going to have to lump it” but at what cost? Frankly, I do not want escalation of animosity and now have full-blown fights in my own home.  Besides, I thought: Is it fair to Deuce? After all this is his home too and even though one cannot fully understand why dogs choose their doggy playmates at all times, I chose to let Deuce have what he wanted: Peace, quiet and “things back to normal” … very high on the list of my precious and systematic Border Collie boy.

Once my client left, I kept pondering on my decision. When do we completely “defer” to our dog’s wants and when do we decide they must play by our rules or the need of the moment?

Perhaps the answer to the question above is not always the same or a simple matter to entertain.  I get that. However, the fouled interaction with this potential board & train gave me an opportunity for reflection of the choices in front of me and their consequences not only for my client, her dog, and myself but also for my dogs. This is what I find of value! Taking a step back when considering how our lives in general and our choices in particular might affect our dogs.

Opportunities like this abound: Perhaps the dog does not care for the food – the only one made available day after day. But we feed this food because it is convenient for us. Or how about a dog that is afraid of children but our best friend has “adorable” kids that would love to be friends with our dog whom until now, has not demonstrated full-blown displays of aggression towards kids but instead he hides under the table tail tucked.

I recently met with a client who in her questionnaire she proclaimed that her dog “was fine” with visitors at the home. There was something about her responses to the questionnaire that raised a red flag for me. Sure enough when they came over to try for agility it was evident to me this dog was not “fine”. She began shaking like a leaf and did anything in her power to avoid me. I wonder, of course, if this is the same reaction guests to the home bring the same kind of response from her dog.

Now, as for my decision, it has been made folks! My dogs are family members to me. Not only that, but they are the family members that need of most care and consideration because their well-being depends on this. So as much as possible my dogs will get what I think they want and need regardless if my choices make someone unhappy or because of this I have to clean the occasional egg off my face.