Dear Dog Whisperer, You're Not Really Whispering
I didn't think it was possible. I thought -- surely -- nothing was more annoying, aggravating, eye-roll inducing than unsolicited parenting advice. I've been the recipient of so much of it over the years that I've learned to tune most of it out, but sometimes I still have to remind myself not to punch random "you should do it this way, honey" advice-givers in the face.
But it turns out there's something slightly more annoying that unsolicited parenting advice.
It's unsolicited dog advice.
Image: fazen via Flickr
Holy moly, you guys! It seems that everyone and their brother is a Board Certified Dog Expert! I even have a few Dog Whisperers on my hands. I don't know what to do with all the genius, all the intellect, all the know-it-all-ed-ness that is being thrown at me as of late. Other than blog rather snarkily about it. Obviously.
My husband tried to prepare me for it shortly after Callie joined the family. "Be prepared for a bunch of advice on what to do with the dog," he whispered as we answered the door. I looked at him like he had 12 heads. No one was going to get all uppity about dog raising, right?
Never, ever feed your dog table food. Sometimes feed your dog table food, but not from the table. Always feed your dog table food; that dog food is crap. The dog food you've chosen is crap; we only feed our dog imported, wine-marinated deer meat. That expensive dog food is crap. You should have a retractable leash. You should have a longer leash. You should have a shorter leash. You shouldn't ever use a leash! Your dog's collar is too thin. Too wide! COLLARS ARE FOR SISSY DOGS! Why did you get such a big dog? My dog is bigger than your dog! Big dogs are too much work. Big dogs are lazy; small dogs are so much better. Get her spayed! Don't get her spayed! Did you register her? Registering her is stupid if you're going to spay her. Pick up poop. Don't pick up poop. (And then, just because we need unsolicited parenting advice to boot...) Make the kids pick up the poop! Crate training is the best way to house train a dog. Don't put her in a crate; that's animal abuse. Tie her up outside. Don't tie her up outside. Get an invisible fence. Invisible fences are cruel and your dog will eventually run away anyway because you guys are jerks for getting an invisible fence. Just let your dog roam at will and poop in the neighbors' yards. (Okay, no one said that, but there's a lot of that going on. And not by us.) Don't yell at your dog. Be firm with your dog. Don't tell your dog no. Make sure your dog understands the word no. No squeaky toys. No chew toys. No balls. No fun.
OH MY GOODNESS, SHUT UP, DOG WHISPERERS.
In the past three-and-a-half weeks, we have been inundated with How to Raise Your Dog 101, though the advice coming from absolutely every person contradicts what someone else said, leaving me with the belief that our dog will be a child-eating, shoe-chewing, floor-pooping, muddy-feet-jumping, bark-and-howling, yip-yipping, mean and nasty dog no matter what we do. In short: Just like parenting, we're doomed.
Like any new mom of a human child, I was taking all of it to heart. The what to feed, when to feed, how to train, how not to rain, what to do when x happens, how to respond when y happens. Oh yes, I was trying to do it all, which probably only served to confuse the stuffing out of poor Callie. When something didn't work, I was soul-crushed. She hates me! She'll never listen! She'll never be trained! DOOMED!
But I've decided I'm Over It. I got to the I'm Over It point much faster with the dog than I did with the boys. Years and years faster. Maybe it's the whole "Dog Years" thing that sped up my understanding... or the fact that arriving at Over It with regards to parenting taught me a few things about how to be Over It in general. About anything. What you think of my hair color. What you think of my nose ring. What you think of my clothing, my husband, my house size, my car, my butt size. Over It.
And so, I will just say this:
Callie is our dog. She may not respond like your dog to a type of food, a toy, a version of training, a way of discipline. She may not like to do things like your dog. She may not like you; I'm okay with that as long as she doesn't bite you. We will work with her as best we know how. We will make mistakes. I might even come to you with a question, to ask your opinion about how to deal with the jumping or the every third day accident or what time of day is best for a long run... but not if you first tell me, "Don't do that," or, "You're doing it wrong," or, "Are you stupid?" Because then I just won't want to talk to you about her at all. Or let you pet her.
And trust me, you want to pet her because she's the sweetest thing. Ever.
When she's not trying to puppy-gnaw on your hand while you're trying to pet her because she's the sweetest thing ever. That kind of removes some of the sweetness.
So please, tell me my dog is cute. Tell me that our family is lucky to have a dog. Tell me that someday she will calm down and stop driving me bonkers in the middle of a rainy fall day when the only thing she wants to do is go outside and bite at raindrops. Tell me I'm doing a great job getting her to walk on a leash. Tell me she looks clean. Tell me I'm a great dog owner.
Or simply shut your yapper. It's your choice. Unless you want to whisper to my dog -- not to me-- that she should love me best. Then I will bake you a pie in the shape of a dog bone. Or maybe just let you pet her more.