When You’re Not the Perfect Pet Parent

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As I wrote last month, I really dig positive training. Both my dogs and I have reaped so many great benefits from it.

However, this does not mean that we are perfect. Far from it. And I was reminded of this yet again a few weeks ago.

I work from home and this was a particularly stressful day. In addition to dealing with a minor family issue, I was up against a tight deadline for one of my favorite clients. No problem. I was sure I could make it with time to spare.

Until my computer crashed.

After saying a few choice words, I went into problem-solve mode. But the more I worked, the more frustrated I got. When walk-time rolled around, my dogs began to get excited and they refused to settle down. Dogs love their routines and mine are no exception.

Reluctantly, I got up, put on their collars and leashes, and we headed out the door.

As we walked, my mind wandered back to the problem of my computer and the looming deadline. Vaguely I noticed Ranger doing his business on a neighbor’s lawn and I started fumbling with the poop bags. When he finished, he did what he has always done: trotted to the very end of the leash as far from the poop as possible and stood like a statue. (I have no idea why he does this but I’ve just accepted it as one of his quirks.) At the same time, my other dog Mayzie looped back around me to sniff something, the two of them effectively hog-tying me. As I bent down to clean up Ranger’s mess, I realized I was a good foot away. With some decidedly ungraceful moves, I untangled myself from Mayzie’s leash but with Ranger straining on his, I was still six inches short.

“Ranger, come.” I said, trying not to let irritation creep into my voice.

He didn’t move.

“Ranger, come!” I said more firmly.

Still, the dog wouldn’t budge.

“Ranger! Geez! COME!” I growled, giving his leash a hard, frustrated yank which pulled him toward me.

While this accomplished what I needed — the poop was thankfully now within reach — I immediately felt ashamed. I hadn’t hurt him but I had definitely let my emotions get the better of me. Ranger was simply doing what he had always done but my reaction was very different from what it had always been. It must have been bewildering for him to find me suddenly transformed into a grumpy leash-yanker.

After the walk, I fixed my computer problem and met my deadline. But I couldn’t quit thinking about the incident with Ranger and what I might’ve done differently.

I know now that I should’ve paid attention to my emotional state and delayed the walk. While the dogs were quite insistent, I could easily have given them project toys and closed my office door.

I also realized there are certain things my dogs do that might be annoying, but that I’ve let slide. It’s never a problem until it’s a problem, right? Since then, I’ve been working more with Ranger on breaking this particular habit (with positive training, of course) and we’re making progress.

I’m working on me, too. If I find myself getting frustrated during a walk or a training session, I give myself a mental “time out.” I take a deep breath, close my eyes and tell myself to shake it off.

Finally, I decided to let it go. Ranger certainly has. I felt so badly about what happened but he has assured me that we’re good. All of us have our less-than-stellar pet parent moments. The important thing is that we learn from them. And I certainly have.

Your turn: Have you ever gotten frustrated with your dog(s)? What did you learn from the experience?

Amber Carlton is a freelance blogger and business writer specializing in the pet industry. Owned by two dogs and two cats, she is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet-lady amongst her friends and family. Connect with her at Comma Hound Copywriting, on Twitter, on Facebook or at Mayzie’s Dog Blog.

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