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Everyone wants a low maintenance dog. You know the one - the dog that plods happily behind his owner, doesn't bark at or jump up on everyone and wags happily at every pat from any passer-by. Unfortunately, not all of us achieve this and wish 'why-can't-my-dog-be-like-that dog'? While others make it look easy you may be surprised at how much work they actually put in to achieve their "low maintenance dog".
Here is a story of one such dog - Yoshi.
Rewind to ten years ago - I was working as an Assistant Stage Manager for a smallish theatre production where the Stage Manager started bringing her dog with her to rehearsals. Yoshi was THAT dog - so relaxed you could practically pour him into a bowl. He would happily accept attention from others, but it was clear that he really only had eyes for his owner. Yoshi would follow her everywhere, uncomplainingly. He would hang out at her feet, calmly waiting for the break when he could take a walk.
Years later, when my husband and I started to talk about getting a dog, Yoshi flashed back into my mind. I wanted THAT dog. Well, not him, exactly, obviously - but I wanted that cool, calm dog, who was just along for the ride, no-big-deal, you know?
As so often happens in life, my plan didn't work out exactly like that. Instead of the cool, calm, relaxed dog, we wound up with the rambunctious, confident, don't-take-your-eyes-off-him-for-a-second dog. Sigh. Enter Bark Busters, and through good, consistent training and daily exercise, we now have a much more relaxed dog - one who listens and responds to us.
It's only been recently that I've finally asked Yoshi's owner about their story together. Yoshi has since passed on, and, frankly, this is a bit hard to read without tearing up a bit because he was such an enormous part of my colleague's life and made such a big impression on me.
The Story of Yoshi:
Yoshi was a lot of things but low maintenance was not one of them, despite the fact that he seemed like he spoke English and just somehow automatically knew what to do when we were out in public. If I'm honest, he sometimes seemed like that to me but that confidence and compliance came out of a huge investment of time and energy.
I had to care very intensively for Yoshi when I first brought him home as a rescue. He was picked up as a stray and was starving and had been in an accident that left him with a fractured pelvis and covered in abrasions that scarred him for the rest of his life. Once he was all healed up, I did many levels of formal training with him, starting with puppy class and going up to rally obedience and agility. I also walked countless kilometres with him and threw a ball so many times that it's something of a mystery that I still have a right arm. He was a joy to spend time with and I was fortunate that he was incredibly smart and loved to work.
It never seemed like work, though. It was as much fun for me as it was for him and I treasure every moment of it. I actually kind of think that if you don't feel this way, dog ownership probably isn't for you. Anyway, the point is that you do have invest in your dog if you want to be able to take them out in the public arena so that most people don't even notice that they're there or just hang out under your desk at work.
Although Yoshi's training needs tapered off, his need for mental and physical stimulation didn't. We still did some work every day until he was a very old man to keep things fresh, to keep his busy brain occupied, and to maintain that working bond. We walked every day, as bright and hard working as he was, he simply could not focus if he didn't get enough exercise. I think a lot of dog owners underestimate their dog's needs in this regard.
Finally, he spent very little time on his own at home. If I couldn't take him to work with me, I would take him to doggie day care or hire a dog walker. I always made sure that he didn't go longer than 4 hours without a break from being alone. I like to think that the fact that he lived to 15 (a great age for a shepherd) can also be attributed in part to the fact that he had an active life both mentally and physically.
Enjoy your pups. The gifts they have to offer are unique and innumerable.
Great dogs aren't born, they are only born with potential. It's what we, as good owners decide to do with that potential that makes all the difference.