Like any good trainer, I am always looking for professional development opportunities. Sometimes what I learn gives me more immediate insight into my own relationship with my animals then my clients’ relationship with theirs.
Currently, I am enrolled in a class to become a Family Paws Parent Educator. (More about that at a future date.) The point today is that a recent class discussion brought to mind the rules and expectations we create for our dogs–and what it does to them when we change those expectations.
I always tell my clients and class students to set expectations for their dogs, and stick to them. Within certain boundaries, I am not usually concerned about what those rules are. Is the dog allowed on the couch? On the bed? Who goes out the door first? I don’t really care what the answers to those questions are in most cases, as long as the answer is consistent within the family.
However, the flip side of creating expectations is that we can change them. Unfortunately, we frequently do, with no explanation for our dogs. I do the same.
We spent the weekend with my in-laws at their home. As we often do when we travel, we brought Sirius along. He has met my in-laws many times, and is very comfortable with them. He has only been to their house a few times, however, and he hasn’t quite mastered what is different about that house than most other houses he goes to.
At our house, when someone sits on the floor, that is an invitation for the dog to play or cuddle with them. (No one who doesn’t want to be covered in dog and cat fur would ever sit on the floor of my house, so you might as well play with the dog.) My normally in-laws’ pet-free house is a different story. People regularly sit on the floor to watch movies, play games, etc.
Sirius found that a little hard to comprehend. At various points, he tried initiating wrestling games with my in-laws and also sitting on the afghan my mother-in-law had intended for herself. Just following the cues he had been taught, but they weren’t quite appropriate for the situation he found himself in.
Overall, we had a very nice visit, but I got a few reminders of things I need to work on before the next time I change the rules on him!