We live in a world of high expectations, many are often unrealistic. We have to do lists that are not attainable, we expect others to perform at higher levels than is humanly possible and we often live beyond our means. These unrealistic expectations have created increased anxiety and stress in our human world and we often pass it on to our dogs.
Every day I meet people who want a shy, timid dog to perform outgoing, courageous things or who want a “perfectly trained” dog (whatever that means to them) but never work with their pet. Just like every human has strengths, weaknesses and unique personalities, dogs do too. A person who dislikes math and science is not likely going to be a doctor and a person who is not interested in art is not likely going to be an artist. Why is it that people expect a shy, timid dog will be able to take on the challenging job of being a guide dog for a blind person?
Dogs are capable of doing amazing things. They can detect a seizure, they can master an agility course and they can be our best friend or child. However, not every dog can perform every task. That does not mean that we cannot train a dog to do many tasks but some tasks require more specific personalities and abilities than others. It is not reasonable to think you can make any dog a service dog or that just any dog will be an agility world champion; just as not every person will become an Olympic Gold medalist or a Pulitzer Prize winner.
In our world of unrealistic expectations, we need to take a step back and have some empathy. We not only need to show empathy for our dogs, but for ourselves as well. For example, a shy dog may enjoy learning tricks and may excel at dog sports if the training is done in a slow positive manner. So instead of expecting your shy dog to be able to master scary situations, enjoy him for who he is and look for things he loves to do. Not only will your dog be happier, you will be too!