These are the things that my dogs like to do: Roll in smelly things, run in the woods, sniff crotches, eat greasy yummy meat, chew bones and snuggle with mom and dad preferably on the couch.

Sometimes they like to do obedience work and go to trials or do a training demo. Only if they truly want to do these things do I ask it of them. I was working toward my Rally-O Championship with my dog Sage. I really, really wanted that Championship. In the ring next to us a man yelled at his dog and Sage melted down. She was trained for Homeland Security which means she was probably shocked, corrected with a collar and yelled at.

Our career was over. She would have continued to work for me but she was not having fun and I decided to retire her.

So often I see dogs who are asked to do things that stress them and sometimes even harm them physically. Dogs will do what is asked of them. My question is . . ¬†Would they do this freely? I often hear, “I want my dog to be a Therapy Dog.” My question to them is, “Does your dog want to be a Therapy Dog?” It is hard stressful work in many cases and most dogs are not cut out for it.

I am a dog trainer but I am over my ego. I learned long ago that training my dogs was about building a relationship with them. In order to do that I had to watch them closely to see what they liked to do. It was within that context that I then trained them.

I ask that each and every one of us allow our dogs to be who they are. Getting a dog does not mean that you have to change them, love them for who they are. We know it is an epic failure to try and change a spouse or partner or even a child, yet it has become acceptable to make dogs perform like circus animals (don’t even get me started on that) and if the dog somehow has the audacity to decline to perform we punish.

So I say let’s give them back a little free will. Let them be a dog in the true sense of the word and you might just find that you have a pretty well trained dog.

Karen Quillen

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