Hang on, let me clarify. I don’t mean eating rabbit poop with them, or rolling in dead things or items of that nature, that would likely make you a psychopath. I mean, do you do stuff with your dog that is natural, that they actually enjoy? Things that dogs enjoy naturally are sniffing, eating rabbit poop, hunting (or pseudo hunting), chasing, exploring, running, laying in the sun, rolling in the grass etc. Now it doesn’t mean that you have to join in the grass rolling or poop eating (pretty sure, though it’s not illegal, the cops might get called) or the hunting, but do you allow your dog some time to practice these very natural behaviours, and do you take part and enjoy your dog for who she is?
Some of these very natural behaviours are actually stress relieving and can do your dog a lot of good in the mental department. I mean, they’re pretty easy – let your dog be a dog, right? Well, not everyone is up for that, and I haven’t always been up for that. Age has loosened my grip on control (possibly not the best wording as it makes me sound insane, and I can assure you that I’m not insane, only mildly nuts) … and made me realize that staring at grass for 45 minutes is actually not the worst thing I could be doing with my day. With each passing dog you learn a little more about what they need vs what you want from them (or how you want to control them). We are selfish creatures (its true, nothing to be ashamed of), but so are all other creatures in the world. The difference being, we can have empathy towards other critters and see things from their perspective. And a dogs perspective can be enormously different from what we think that we want it to be.
For example, when I stare at grass for 45 minutes, with my puppy happily hunting poop and dirt to eat, I didn’t start my day out thinking, “gee, it would certainly be engrossing to stare at grass for an extended period today, and observe my puppy eating dirt and poo”. It certainly wasn’t what I thought I wanted her to do. I thought that I wanted her to do some work on the long line, I thought I wanted to teach her some things. But it turned out that wasn’t on her priority list … so I caved. And I’m glad I cave on a daily basis. That puppy, and many other dogs, get more joy out of running ridiculously through long grass, falling, rolling, finding non-editable items to eat and hunting. And I get a more satisfied, energy reduced, tired working dog after I allow that.
Yes, yes, yes training and practice is important, but so is the ability to just be a dog. To not be perfect. Think about it. What are some of your best memories of fun times that you’ve experienced? I’m guessing they weren’t learning times tables, doing homework and chores or rubbing Aunt Carol’s bunions. I’ll bet they were when you were really allowed to be a kid, kinda like being a puppy, but without the wildlife poop eating (unless you were into that). If not, there’s no help for you.
Take some time today to really look at your dog. What type of breed/mix is he? What are his origins (most dogs we bred specifically for some sort of work)? What are his energy levels? What does he enjoy? Are you allowing outlets for what your dog was bred for … what their original purpose was? If you do this, you will help not only to satisfy your dogs natural drives, but you’ll also allow them to work their mind and body. You’ll build confidence, you’ll reduce excess energy. You’ll relieve stress, and in turn it will help you, yes you, not just the dog, to enjoy the moment, the little things in life, the things that are more important than asking questions about rashes on idiotbook, posting staged “natural, but unnatural, no filter, but filtered, this is how I wake up in the morning” selfies on instawhatever and complaining about other peoples lives and the world on twit-something-or-other.
You might catch me out in a grassy field somewhere, allowing my puppy to be ridiculous, to look for mice friends (at least that’s what she calls them), to eat dirt (not always, only when I’m feeling cheeky), following the dog around on a long line, letting her dig, explore, gain confidence and reduce energy. And I can tell you that the benefits of doing this far outweigh the possibility of making Tick friends in the process (remember, tick friends don’t let you know they’ve become your friend, they just join in … unannounced, not welcome, like the old creepy dude in the club). Not all dogs want to just sit, stay, down, come and work on obedience. Though it’s very important you prepare your dog to be a polite member of society, it’s also important to remember they are not human, and have different needs than us, especially dogs who were meant to work, meant to have a job.
So let them work on some of those natural behaviours along side you, let them be a dog at times, let them enjoy the sunshine and nature without being forced to comply at every step. Enjoy them for who they are, respect the origins and enhance the relationship in the process.