I’m trying to develop a habit of complimenting people on their dogs’ behavior. Not their appearance, size or breed, but their behavior.
Like with everything else, people are much more likely to compliment or criticize a dog’s appearance rather than her behavior. Just take a Staffordshire terrier to the dog park and watch people back away because they see the “pitbull” rather than the calm, well-trained dog that she is. Or take a great dane out and notice how people gasp at her size rather than appreciate her gentleness.
The number one thing that stands out to me with dogs is when I see one that’s calm and relaxed in public. This is probably because the average dog barks, pulls or nearly strangles herself on walks, trips to PetSmart or any other time she gets out of the house. I notice when a dog is under control, quiet and responsive to her owner.
It’s a goal of mine to be able to take my dog anywhere with no issues. So when I see a dog behaving better than mine, I notice. It’s a secret competition. Most dogs I interact with behave a lot worse than my dog, others are much more focused and calm. When I see a dog I admire, the owner has typically put a lot of time into working with that dog.
There’s no better way to learn about animal behavior and training than to speak with someone who has successfully trained a dog to do whatever you want your dog to do. And most dog owners like to hear something like, “That’s a really nice dog you have. How did you get him to stay at your side no matter what?”
People compliment me on how calm my dog is, and it’s a great compliment to receive. But no one ever asks how he got that way. They assume it’s his personality, that labs are easy to train (uh, yeah) or that I lucked out. These people have obviously never seen my dog obsess over a tennis ball or crash through an agility course. They don’t know that it took daily six-mile runs and hours of training to get my hyper dog to relax.
We all know dog owners like to brag about their dogs. It’s what we do. We like to complain about them too, but that’s just another version of bragging. “My dog took and ate an entire steak from the table …”
So, the next time you see a well-behaved dog, tell her owner you’re impressed. Then ask how she got to that point. There’s always more we can learn.
What kinds of compliments does your dog get? What do you admire in other people’s dogs?