Talking about expectations when it comes to dog ownership and training is always a contentious issue. After all what are realistic expectations anyway?
Dog training and training methods have changed drastically over the last few years, largely due to the fact that we understand dogs far better than we ever did! Even understanding something simple, such as the fact that an adult dog only has the average cognitive ability of a 2.5-year-old child, can change the way we view our dogs.
See dogs are really quite simple; they don’t live in the past or the future, they live only in the present. For example, when you’re in the shower do you think about how the water on your skin feels? Or do you think about what you have planned for the day? My bet is on the latter, whereas a dog – well, they would focus on the water and give no though to what comes next.
So what does this mean? It means that dogs cannot be naughty, malicious or vindictive. They are simply not capable of this thought process! Dogs just do what works for them at that specific time and if that behaviour happens to be rewarded, then they will repeat it!
Dogs really aren’t that smart, they just repeat what is rewarded and do what works.
Sadly sometimes I think we forget that dogs are just dogs and will therefore do dog things! Sometimes these dog ‘things’ make no sense to us humans, however understanding that dogs don’t have the same emotions or emotional investment that we humans do can help a bit. I had to remind myself of this not that long ago when one of my dogs injured one of my chickens. My ‘human’ brain wanted to yell and be really cross at my dog, however I quickly reminded myself that he is simply a dog, and to ensure the behaviour never occurred again, I built a better fence for my chickens.
Every dog is different and expectations should be adjusted to suit the individual dog. To expect a working Jack Russell Terrier to get along well with your pet rats is possibly setting yourself up for failure.
Having realistic expectations of your dog will set you up to enjoy many years together. Having unrealistic expectations is like trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole, you can try and force it as much as you like, but it still won’t fit!
Kalmpets Animal Behaviour Centre