Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid… Albert Einstein
I think of this often, especially in regards to our dogs that live in a human world.
So often working dogs go into family pet homes, generally with families that start with great intentions. But a pet is a bit different from a working dog, and therein lies the problem and most notably, a great misunderstanding.
Sometimes it’s a great fit, especially if the family is active on a daily basis with an outdoor lifestyle, which would provide mental and physical exercise. A family that gets management, and really isn’t interested in having the dog park as the center of activity.
The hallmark of a working dog is the ability and desire to work, solve concepts and reason. They are beyond great puzzle solvers!
But more often than not, I see working dogs going into family pet homes, and they are asked to live as a pet, with no work, no outlet for mental exercise, and in an environment that puts them into conflict pretty much all of the time.
They are labeled as difficult, dogs with bad behaviors, over the top, out of control, knuckle heads, etc. And these descriptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. These are in fact the fish, that are being judged on their ability to climb a tree.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, breeders have been working to breed specific qualities into working line dogs. Qualities and traits that are desirable can be; prowess in chosen task, endurance, stamina, tenaciousness, persistence, a level of sensitivity, strong multi tasking abilities, strong people orientation, intense mental and physical focus, reasoning, able to work independent of handler and make decisions, etc. Notice, there isn’t a single descriptor for lay in the family room and stare at the wall?!
Wanting or owning a working dog comes with specific obligations and responsibilities. There really isn’t too much negotiating in this area, for me anyway. With all of the dog sports available today, and the huge cache of videos with fun and purposeful things you can be doing with a dog, there really is no excuse. Success only happens when an owner really understands WHO they are living with, and steps up to the plate. For me, this is where the fun starts to happen!
So, here is a shout out to all of the dogs that have been judged by their ability to handle life as a family pet and are failing. May you now have the opportunity to live up to your working dog potential … and fly! … Nancy