The Green Grass On The Other Side Of That Fence
We have all seen that other dog. He comes trotting into an area with his tail wagging and a big Husky grin on his face. It does not matter to him who or what is in front of him because that dog always seems to have it all together. He is cool, calm, and collected. He is unflappable. He seems to be able take everything in stride. He never seems to lose his composure. He does not seem to react and he never seems to come unglued. His owner never looks like she is on the verge of a tearful melt-down or that she might just start taking up drinking at any moment.
And then there is our “special” Husky. He is the polar opposite to Mr. Cool and Unflappable. He enters the area puffing and pulling like a steam engine. His eyes darting around the room and he is ready to pounce on anything that moves. He could young, newly adopted, or just plain out of control. It’s likely at times this dog has probably pushed you to the brink of your emotional and physical limits.
You work and work and work with him and yet he still looks like his head might spin around on his shoulders at any given moment. If you could allow yourself to be honest just for a moment you might even have to admit that there are times when this crazy out of control dog, the one that needs constant management and correction, the one that drives you pretty close to crazy…
Our Dirty Little Secret
Clearly you always love your dog, but there are times when you’re so frustrated it can be hard to like this big hairy handful of Husky. And along with that thought comes the feelings of guilt, shame, and feeling like a less than competent dog owner. Sometimes we feel like a failure when it comes to our difficult dogs. We chastise and berate ourselves for thinking these thoughts, for feeling this way, and for not being able to create that other dog.
The problem is, we don’t own that other perfect dog. We own this dog. We have somehow ended up with the class clown, the rescue, the reprobate, the anarchist, or that unbridled free spirit who is determined to march to the beat of his own drum. Today I talk about this dog and the dirty little secret that no one likes to admit … sometimes these dogs are not the easiest creatures to like.
It’s Easy To Love That Dog
It is easy to love that other dog. He probably never eats a shoe or never swallowed a sock whole. He is not the one that gallops around like a lunatic in class even when you just walked him for an hour to tire him out. People never shoot the owner of that dog a weary look that says, “Oh look. It’s them again.” I know that look. I used to get it a lot when Kaya was younger. These dogs try our patience and test our limits of understanding, compassion, and love. Some days you have to be practically super-human to keep a smile on your face and sense of humor about you. But I also now understand that these more difficult dogs can be a blessing in disguise.
The Blessing In Disguise
How the heck does a difficult dog become a blessing in disguise you ask? They are a blessing because they push you out of your comfort zone and it is there in the fear, the uncomfortableness, the frustration, and the vulnerability of not knowing what to do, that miracles and magic can happen. These challenges that you are having can be a foundation that you can build on.
This only becomes a wasted experience if you don’t learn from it. It is easy to look at a situation and label it as a waste of time just because it did not look the way that you thought that it would. But every encounter yields experience as long as you are open to learning from it and learning happens when you are willing to shift your perspective about the given nature of a situation.
What Difficult Dogs Can Teach Us
When you are open to learning the difficult dog can:
- Show you that you are so much stronger and resilient than you ever thought you were.
- Push you out of complacency and force you to finding new ways of looking at problem. If you were not an out of the box thinker before, you will be before you are done working this dog.
- Force you to develop patience, understanding, and compassion if you did not already have these virtues before you started this gig.
- Teach you how vital it is to develop a good sense of humor about things that you cannot change or control in life. It is what it is, so you may as well embrace it and find the humor in it.
- Help you learn how great it feels to accomplish the seemingly insurmountable task.
- Teach us about unconditional love. It is easy to love the cute puppy or the cooperative dog but it takes unconditional love to truly accept and love a dog for who and what he is right now in this imperfect moment. And finally,
- Teach us about ourselves. They are like our mirrors. They reflect to us who we are and who we are not. Sometimes it is these difficult dogs who finally motivate us to become more organized, responsible, and more accountable, something that we should have been doing all along but we always put off or found ways to squirm out of doing. Now we have no place left to hide from it. These dogs call us on the carpet about OUR imperfections, shortcomings, and our bad habits.
They become our furry life lesson.
Living The Life Lesson
While it is wonderful to get a chance to learn a life lesson, the reality is that living the lesson is not always pleasant or easy. Here are few things to remember while we live our lesson.
When working with the difficult Husky it helps to remember these things:
- See the dog. See your dog because this is the dog that you have to live with and work with. It makes no sense for you to wish that he was different. This is who he is for the moment so learn how to accept this situation with grace. Learn to work with a difficult situation and not against it. Working against the energy of a situation will only serve to deplete your energy.
- Go with the flow, not against it.
- Do not focus on what the dog still cannot do. Focus and celebrate what this dog can do. Every step forwards counts and should be celebrated enthusiastically and unabashedly. Don’t make the mistake of saving the celebrating for just the big milestones. Appreciate the uniqueness of your dog.
- Remember not to get so focused on the destination of “getting there” that you forget to enjoy and appreciate the journey. There are hidden gems along the road but you will surely miss them if you are only focused on the end game.
- Your dog’s behaviour does not define the dog. Behaviour is separate from the living entity. You can love your dog but not like its behaviour. This does NOT make you a bad owner and a bad person. It just makes you human. It’s okay.
- Always leave room for the miracle to show up. Mindset is everything. If you have made up your mind that it cannot ever be different, then it is doomed to stay the same. Be open to the possibility that today is the day that you finally get through that obstacle that you have been struggling with. Believe that everything is a possibility.
- And lastly, remember that all human beings are perfectly imperfect. It is not necessary for you to be a perfect human to be good person. You can be flawed, frustrated, grumpy, and exasperated. It’s okay. This too shall pass. Just remember to breathe and let it go. Every moment comes to us as a blank canvas. You can choose what thoughts to fill in your next moments with.
Is It OK To Give Up?
Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into the dog, the dog’s behaviour just does not get any better. The whole purpose of Snowdog Guru is to help educate owners and reduce the number of huskies and malamutes that end up in shelters and we recommend exhausting the available resources from websites such as this one to dog training classes, but sometimes a particularly difficult husky can be too much for some people. It may be that the dog needs even more time and training that you’re able to give. This doesn’t mean you failed the dog or that you failed as a dog owner. You might just simply have a very incompatible dog personality or a dog that requires a special skill set that you do not possess.
Sometimes the reality is that this dog might do better with a different owner or in a different environment. It’s okay to come to this realization. It is far better to love the dog enough to choose to do what is best for the dog and not what makes you feel better in the moment. Maybe you just took on more than you could handle? It happens and it’s okay.
Once you have done the very best that you could, given it your all, then there is simply nothing more that you can do. Maybe this part of your journey together is complete. Maybe this was all that you can do for this dog. It’s okay. You don’t have to beat yourself up about it.
Whether you find a way to make the journey with this dog or you help place the dog into a more suitable home, don’t forget to learn from the experience. I may not agree with everything that Cesar Millan says and does but I do think that he hit the nail on the head when he says, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog that you need.”
Sometimes we are the teacher and sometimes we become the student. Accept it and embrace the experience. It may just take you to places that you would have never normally gone.
As always, we welcome your questions, comment, and stories regarding this topic. What have you learned from your difficult dog?
When we share our wisdom and our stories we may be helping someone who is struggling with their difficult Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.