When you adopt a dog or purchase a puppy from a breeder, you have an idea of what you would like your life to look like.
You probably imagine cuddling on the couch and going for fun walks around the neighborhood. Many people want their dog to go to cafes or on camping trips and vacations with them. Your dog will be a loving companion who is always there for you.
Very often, our expectations of “the dog we wanted” don’t match up with reality. When this happens we can feel sad, disappointed, and possibly regret the decision to get a dog in the first place.
If this is you, you are not alone. The dog or puppy blues, as they are sometimes called, are far more common than you think.
Dog owners often expectations for how their new pet will behave go unmet. Those unmet expectations result in disappointment. We can get stuck in a loop focusing only on what our dog “isn’t” and the ways they’ve let us down.
If you’ve never had a dog with serious behavioral challenges in the past, owning a reactive dog can feel completely overwhelming.
Take time to grieve the dog you thought you were getting. Don’t force yourself to make peace on a specific timeline. Speak with a therapist or counselor if you feel you need additional support moving through the discomfort.
Your dog isn’t what you hoped they would be. It’s hard to accept, but once you’ve made some peace with the disappointment you’ve been feeling we can start to make progress.
Dogs with behavioral challenges are just regular dogs who have behaviors that don’t fit all that well in human society. This does NOT make them bad dogs. Plus, dogs can be trained, so many of the issues you may be struggling with can be improved.
A challenging dog calls on you to be your best self, to rise to the occasion and meet their needs. They call on you to help them feel safe and teach them new ways to respond to the scary outside world.
The good news is, there is a lot you can do to help your dog better adjust to the world around them!
Seek out the help of a force-free credentialed dog trainer right away. The biggest mistake people make with their dogs is waiting too long to seek help.
The longer an undesirable behavior is rehearsed by your dog, the stronger the behavior will become. Yikes! That’s not something you want.
Reach out to a dog trainer with advanced training and education who specializes in behavior challenges as soon as you suspect there is an issue.
Ah the last dog. This is another common piece to new dog/puppy disappointment. You aren’t alone in comparing your last dog to your new dog.
I often hear from clients some version of “but my last dog never even needed training” or “my last dog would never have chewed up furniture, he was just such a good dog”
Sometimes these comparisons seem to stem from grief over their last dog who passed away within the last year or two. Their memory is still so strong and the new dog isn’t measuring up.
Whatever the cause of the comparison, we need to let go of measuring your last dog against your new dog. They won’t be a the same. No dog, no matter how wonderful will ever fill the space of your beloved dog who passed on.
Practice empathizing with your dog, they did not choose their genetics or early experiences. They are simply acting in the way that makes sense to them.
Focus on growing with your new dog or puppy. Learn a new skill together like trick training, nose work, rally, or even dock diving.
Find things you can do together. If you hoped your dog would be your backpacking companion but he struggles with reactivity you can still spend time in nature with your dog! Grab a 20-ft long line and find a local field where you can explore the great outdoors without encountering lots of triggers.
Remember that your feelings are valid, you don’t need to berate yourself for feeling disappointed in your dog. Reach out to a certified professional dog trainer if you are ready to start transforming your relationship with your dog for the better.