Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dog Training is Cheaper Than Therapy

Last night at dog training, Bob Minchella our trainer said something that hit home with me. He was talking to another dog owner, but earlier he and I had had a long conversation about Scout's anxiety and my guilt in bringing another dog into the house.

Bob said that when you have two dogs, you need to make sure that you do stuff with them separately so they develop their own identities. Otherwise, you end up with dogs that rely on each other too much.

To be honest, I needed to hear that, because it gives me permission to love each dog separately. I've been feeling very guilty if I do something with one dog and not the other. More than that, enjoying doing something more with one than the other.

See, I have a lot of emotion attached to Scout. I got him a week after we put down our 14-year-old Border collie Natasha, an extremely emotional event for our whole family. That our daughter was in Florida at the time, and called me repeatedly to tell me I was a dog murderer, didn't help. Scout had some anxiety issues to begin with, but a month later, just about the time Cassie decided to come home, Scout broke his leg (and it was my fault). So I ended up with a 20-week-old puppy in a cast and a daughter struggling to sort out some of her own growing up stuff (leaving her on a bit of an emotional roller coaster). I was drained, sad, frustrated, distraught, and not a little bit depressed.

My own emotional issues certainly played a big part in amplifying Scout's anxiety issues, to the point that I'm constantly feeling guilty whenever I think he's being slighted. When Bandit takes Scout's toy, I feel guilty. When Bandit bites Scout while they're playing, I feel guilty. When Bandit crawls up on the couch with me while I watch TV, and Scout goes upstairs to lie on the bed, I feel guilty. (Even though Scout never really liked to lie on the couch with me.)

So maybe the problems I'm seeing with the two dogs are really my own problems coming to the surface. That Bob said the dogs need to do things separately actually reminds me that what might feel guilty for me is actually good for the dogs. That's it's not only OK to take them to the park separately, or to crawl on the couch with one and play frisbee with the other, it's good for us all.

Dog training. Cheaper than therapy.

Related posts:
Natasha The Wonder Dog: The Final Update
Posts about Scout

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