Gracie came into my life when she was 4 months old. She was on the euthanasia list in a rural Indiana shelter. She had been there since she was about 2 months old. When she came to me, she was sweet and cute and eager to learn. And then after about a month, the honeymoon was over. I quickly learned that she hated to be left alone (she would destroy any blanket left in her crate and one day she could reach curtains--which ended up pulled down and shredded), she hated strange men, she barked menacingly at any person who came into the house, she refused to housebreak. Oh, and she was leash reactive.
Garmin came into my life a few years later. He was five months old, had been dropped at a shelter by a neighbor and had to wait in a kennel for three long weeks before he was released for adoption or rescue. It was right before Christmas and the last thing this husky/cattle dog mix puppy needed was to be a present under someone's tree, so he came to live with me. Well, he was supposed to be a foster, but that changed. Garmin was a non stop puppy. GO GO GO GO GO. He, too, was eager to learn and smart. But, he was a biter, also refused to housebreak, was a resource guarder, hated his feet messed with and was extremely touch sensitive. And did I mention that he was pretty much nervous about all stimuli outside? Oh, and he was also leash reactive.
Through lots and lots and LOTS of work, both of my dogs have overcome a lot. Gracie is now a certified therapy dog (she achieved that when she was just shy of two years old) and she has her Community Canine title from the AKC. She is an excellent therapy dog. Nursing homes to library programs, this girl loves her job. And people love her. Garmin has his CGC title and is one of the fasters learners I have ever worked with. And he has never met a stranger. Seriously. This dog loves everyone almost too much. And he's funny and goofy and makes everyone laugh.
There were times I wanted to give up. Times that I thought I couldn't get through it with either of them, but I always took a deep breath and a step back and tried again. I didn't go it alone--when I was in over my head, I asked for help. I learned. I read. And I kept going. And I am so thankful that I did. They are the inspiration for all that I do and they keep me on my toes.
But I guess my message to you is this: The dog you GET may not always be the dog you WANT. Rarely, if ever, are you going to get that perfect dog that loves all dogs, people and things. In fact, most dogs that are like that have gone through training of some sort to make them that way. Good, well balanced dogs take time and effort. And if you are willing to put in the time and effort, I promise that you will have a stronger bond than you can imagine with your dogs. Does that mean there won't be days that you want to give up? Of course not--you will most likely have a few of those. When the puppy pees on the floor after just being outside or when your adolescent dog chews up your new XBox controller. But, if you make the choice to continue passed all that, great things await.
If you and your family added a dog this Christmas, please make sure that you are willing to commit to their training as well as to their overall care. Training is so important--it helps show the dog what you want and it helps you guys build a stronger bond. And training is life long. I work with my dogs one way or another each day. Sometimes it's serious training. Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we work on tricks. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they are learning, we are bonding and they are loving every minute of it.
Are my dogs perfect? No. Not by any means. In fact, they are so imperfect it's adorable. I don't expect them to be perfect. I expect them to be fun, happy, loving dogs who enjoy each day they have on this earth. Why? Because their start to life was terrible-and they have earned the right to relax and enjoy themselves. But, I also know they will do whatever I ask them to do because we have worked and trained and grown together.
Commit to your dog 100% and I can promise you that they will never let you down. Trust in your dog and they will trust you. And that is a bond that will last a lifetime.