We all like to say that we trust our dog…that we know without a shadow of a doubt, how they will behave in any given situation. And most of the time, if we’ve done extensive training, exposed our dogs to many different situations and scenerios, we may just be telling the truth. That being said however, there is a real danger in us putting 100% unconditional trust in our pets. The truth of the matter is, at the end of the day? They are all animals. Just as human beings, some we can live with, love and share the whole of our lives with, can sometimes act unpredictably, do something we never would have expected and totally surprise us, so can our dogs. Frankly, in my opinion, it is incredibly arrogant of us to assume that we can predict ANYONE or ANYTHING’s behavior 100% of the time. Unless we are truly psychic, it’s just not possible.
Of course hindsight is 20/20. It’s very easy for us to say, well I had this dog for ten plus years, and my kids could do this and that to him/her, and he never so much as blinked. Or, my dog was never on a leash from the time he was a pup and yet he never got hit by a car, never escaped, never….you fill in the blanks. Lucky you! Because if that is the case, you are very lucky. Now ask the people who have had dogs act out of character by bolting out of the driveway unexpectedly one day, who ended up getting hit and dying. Ask the people who had well trained, well socialized dogs who out of the blue bit someone without any forseeable reason or warning. It happens.
I think if we truly want to keep our dogs safe and happy, we have to always keep it in the back of our minds that while we may have incredible bonds with them, we may have trained them extremely well, and the dog may be totally reliable up to this point…at the end of the day, they are still animals first and foremost. We cannot read every thought, every feeling, every instinct in our dogs, no matter how much we may want to think we can. Forgetting this, can be fatal.
I do not put Luke in situations where I am setting him up for the possibility of failure. I don’t just assume that because he’s never done something before, that he will never do it. I know that there is always that tiny possibility that something might set him off the wrong way, and he might react differently than ever before. I don’t let him walk along on busy streets offleash…I don’t let him leave my house, even to go out to the car without a leash on. Those are just examples that I use. There are many.
How often do we see someone in the park with their dog, or out on a walk, and that person will say “oh fuzzy butt just LOVES other dogs, he LOVES people”, and then all of the sudden the dog just takes a dislike to a person or other dog and a fight breaks out? Well maybe fuzzy butt DID love all dogs and people up to that point..maybe he just got bad vibes off of the person or dog at that moment.
Or a dog who is usually perfect on leash, who all of the sudden takes a “I think I’ll pull you down the street” notion one day? I’ve seen it. Luke has been perfect on leash since nine weeks yet once in a while he’ll have those times when he’s less than perfect for whatever reason, Maybe he’s just in a pissy mood and doesn’t feel like being totally obedient, who knows? It doesn’t mean he wasn’t trained, it doesn’t mean he’s bad, just means for that moment he isn’t doing what he normally does. For heaven sake..I myself do things to surprise myself sometimes, and I’m ME!
My point I guess is this. Far too often, we humans think we are sooo smart, so above every other species, so in control, when in reality, we have barely scratched the surface. Never assume that you know EVERYTHING about anyone, human or dog. Training does not rid any animal of every single instinct it possesses. Even if you personally never witness some of those instincts.
What a great reminder! In the end, a dog is still a dog.
Great post. We’ve had countless times on our walks with Gus that an off-leash dog comes bounding our direction with the owner screaming “don’t worry, she’s friendly!”.