The day I picked Tilley up from the breeder, I had great expectations for this little girl.
So much excitement; the day finally arrives when you have your new puppy in your arms. Whether that puppy is going to be a tiny 3 lb dog or a 150 whopper, the day has finally arrived and you couldn't be happier. This means that the next 10-18 you will be building your relationship, growing your connection. The beginning of your life together can be a challenge. Depending on what puppy you added to your life; the amount of your canine experience and the time and effort that you put in. There is much to do at first, training, educating, guiding, watching and much more.
As the months pass and the lessons become more sporadic you slip into a wonderful harmony. Things are easier, life gets good again. That is if you have put in the essential work in the beginning. If you did not put in all the work that you should have then life will not get more simple. In fact if you do not implement all the building blocks in the beginning of your relationship then it may become worse or break down completely. This is a sad event.
Going through the day to day with your dog; there will be issues that arise that need dealing with. Leaving them to another day in the hopes that they will just go away is a bad move. When dogs have behavior concerns arise they need tending to so that they do not fester. This is the moment that many dogs are given up or dumped. The owner has given up, it's too much, they can't do it anymore. The behaviors have become so bad that it is now far more than they can deal with. Perhaps even dangerous, the dog has become a liability. Now what?
Yesterday I got through a tough day of writing; I finished the day that we lost Tilley. Having been in the thick of it for hours; with tears flowing down my face I pushed away from the computer. "Let's go outside," I said to Luke and Elsa who were keeping me company in the office. Elsa charged down the stairs and outside at my command. I sat there for a long while with them, just watching and enjoying them enjoy the outdoors. Elsa found some crickets to chase and Luke lay in the sun to warm his old bones. These are the good times.
Writing about Tilley yesterday got me to thinking about how much work goes into great dogs. Sure Tilley came to me pretty amazing but she had issues, some huge. I worked through them, redirected some onto other more positive activities and committed to helping her through some of her fears. After several years of constant work she was finally the Tilley that we knew she could be. She was the picture of perfection, but it took a great deal of work to get there. Dogs have a tough job learning to live in our world. Heck look how long it can take us to get it right.
Putting the work into a dog from the get go makes all the years that you will share together in the future, amazing ones. I don't know how many of my students in training class said to me "I just want our dog to be like Tilley." They didn't realize that Tilley started out as a fearful girl with way too much drive. Those early days Tilley was not the Tilley that they saw at class. She needed work, much like we need work ourselves. Putting that work in at the beginning can and does make for an amazing relationship. A connection like no other, the canine/human connection.