I mean it in the nicest way possible, but Emmett isn’t normal.
Sometimes, when I’m working with Lucas and Cooper, I catch myself thinking, “Ugh. I wish they would be more like Emmett.” But that’s a totally unreasonable expectation. And totally unfair because Emmett isn’t normal. (Stick with me. I do have a point!)
Example 1: For various reasons, we’re fairly sure Molly was never inside a home. So, as her foster family, we’re striving to get her used to house things. While I was cooking dinner last night, I let her into the kitchen with Emmett. I asked Emmett to sit/stay in the center of the kitchen while I made dinner… and while Molly jumped all around including on his face, chomped his tail, sniffed his manhood, tried to climb on the counters, and yipped. And Emmett just sat there, immovable and calm.
Example 2: Two loose dogs – with collars – are running through the neighborhood but didn’t respond when I called. They wagged a bit but kept on their adventure. So, I leashed up Emmett as bait. Walked toward the dogs who came to investigate him. Dropped his leash and asked him to wait. Clipped the loose dogs. Walked home.
Example 3: We’re at the public library. Kids are clamoring around him, giving hugs and kisses. I turn to a parent to answer a question. I turn back – and a little girl is pushing down on Emmett’s head with all her might. He’s sitting perfectly still, resisting, eyes wide and staring at me, clearly saying, “Help!” But he hadn’t moved or reacted in any way. (For the record, she wanted him to lay down. Sigh.)
I could go on, but you get the idea. He’s a doggy Zen master. And that’s not normal.
Most dogs aren’t like Emmett.
And when I catch myself comparing Lucas and Cooper (or, now, Molly) to him, it’s totally unfair and entirely unreasonable. I set training goals for the boys that, I hope, help them navigate their world with confidence. But I frequently catch myself thinking the end game is to get Lucas and Cooper to be calm or confident or solid… like Emmett. And that’s not fair.
Incidentally, what got me thinking about this was a book that I was sent to review that said that comparing is a natural part of the human condition. Hmm.
So, I’m wondering: How do you determine when your dog is “trained”? Do you compare your dog to others? Or, if you have multiples, do you hold them up to a single high standard? Or – are you more enlightened than I am – and focus on individual goals?