When I rescued him, several dog-owning friends gave me unsolicited advice about how to train him to be a well behaved and "obedient" dog. Of course, like all of us, dogs need a certain amount of training and structure just to get through the day, or life would be total anarchy. But I wanted a furry friend, not a robot.
Dogs are different from children. I don't have to worry about my dog growing up and understanding the value of a dollar or being polite enough to say, "please" and "thank you." My only goal in raising my dog is that he spends his limited time on the planet as happy and healthy as possible. Showing him boundless love and making him always feel safe and comfortable is my sole responsibility in his world.
I remember sitting with him at the veterinarian's office after I'd just brought him home. He was still a hyper mess. An older woman with perfect posture was there — with her two poodles sitting as perfectly straight as she was — as my pup climbed all over me, trying to eat my purse. When the nurse came out to get Pete, he immediately peed on my lap. I knew I had my work cut out for me… but I also knew I didn't ever want him to sit in the vet's office like a statue of a dog instead of a sweet, affectionate little guy.
Today, he follows basic commands like "sit" and "stay," and is house trained. But he's still "spoiled." He still gets really excited when he sees new people, and can't resist the urge to jump up and kiss them — or roll around on the floor so they will feel compelled to rub his belly. But I'm not sure that's a pattern I want him to break, anyway.
The truth is, I don't really care if he sits on the couch or in my favorite chair. Before I got a dog, I was probably a lot more rigid — but maybe I was the one who needed to be trained. Life is messy, but it is a lot more fun with Pete around. If there is some dog hair on my furniture, big deal. I'm sure I could break him of that habit, but it is so much more important for me to have a happy home than to obsess over imperfection.
Pete has a playroom filled with toys, a car seat so he can come just about everywhere with me, and his own blanket on my bed. He even has his own shelf of healthy treats in the kitchen. To people who tell me not to spoil him too much, I say: Why not? People are constantly stopping me in the street to tell me what a happy dog he is. There is a reason for that: He feels loved.
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