When I first got Phoebe, I had great aspirations of her being a therapy dog. I could envision her walking down the halls of the Veteran’s Hospital bringing joy to everyone she met. Of course, that meant she had to get some training.
Phoebe learned the basic commands and passed the Puppy and Beginner class with out a hitch. When we got to the Intermediate class, she did not pass. We took it again and she did not pass the second time. The thought running through my mind at the time was, “How can she be a therapy dog if she can’t pass the classes?”
After a week or so of frustration, I realized how happy she was just lying around the house and chasing balls (before her new found ‘ball phobia’). She is ecstatic when we go for walks, sitting there at precisely 4:30 pm, and loves to snuggle at any time of day..
Phoebe is not the best behaved dog when in public. If people want to say Hi, she wants to jump on them – operative word being ‘wants’ – she does not get to do it, but still tries.
As I was in the middle of filling out the information to enroll her for her third round of intermediate classes, I had my epiphany. Was I trying to get her well-trained for her well-being, or for my own purposes (i.e., being a therapy dog).? I had to admit it was for my own purposes.
Many dogs go through obedience class and excel, Phoebe just is not one of them. She is not totally obnoxious, she knows the commands, follows them, and does great. The problem is that she is not consistent. After some thought I decided that good enough was good enough for me. She was trained “enough” to behave around the homestead, but not disciplined enough to do the same in public.
We tried nose classes thinking Phoebe would love it and have lots of fun. Well, it was not fun at all; in fact, it totally stressed her out. We kept going, but why? Was it for her own well being or our desire for her to excel? Slap in the face – it was our desire for her to excel.
I have to put things in the same perspective as when we raised our kids. We had them try new things, or they opted to, but if it did not work out it ended with no guilt or disappointment. Nothing would make them “like” something they did not like. There were always exceptions, of course. If they had been at something for years (karate comes to mind) and suddenly did not want to go, we pushed through a while longer. When it became apparent that they were genuinely tired of the activity (not just bored) we cut them loose. If that is how we raised our children, why on earth would we expect more from a dog?
Phoebe was not cut out to be a therapy dog or a champion nose dog. Again, it was my desire, not hers. She just wants to be a plain ol’ dog who gets to go to doggie daycare every now and then to play with other dogs, and lounge around the house in between walks.
Phoebe seems most happy when she is a simple, snuggly pet.
I can live with that.