Tell your dog he is handsome . . .
Yesterday I was at the vet, and as there was a long wait we spent some time in the lobby practicing our sits, our downs, and getting lots of treats. It is hard for dogs to be bored, and even harder for them to be bored when they are in a stressful place, surrounded by distractions. The Elkhound knows things happen at the vet that he does not like, his nails get trimmed, they take his temperature, they put him on the ::gasp:: scale . . . none of these things are fun and while he does handle it with as much grace as an almost 14 year old dog can muster, any chance for him to head to the door he will take. And he needs his space from other dogs to make it even more of an adventure. So keeping him distracted and focused on me is important, even if it means letting him eat treats directly from the bag as the techs try to find and trim his front dewclaw. But I digress . . .
As I was sitting in the lobby telling my dog how amazing and handsome he is, one of the receptionists, who has been there for years stopped, paused, and told me how nice that was to hear. I looked at her shocked, I mean, clearly my dog is incredibly handsome. Amazing is debatable at times but he had just saved me and the entire building from a squirrel who ran by the window by barking at it and driving it away, so, clearly at that point he was amazing. Clearly. But I thanked her and told her he may not always listen, but he is always handsome, so, of course I am going to let him know. And then she told me something that made me a little sad, she said they do not normally hear things like that in the lobby, and it was just nice to hear someone saying nice things to their dog.
But the thing is I know you all love your dogs, and you all say nice things at home – but why not at the vet? From now on I propose we tell our pets how great they are, no matter where we are. You can deny it all you want but I know you are probably talking baby talk and snuggling away in the privacy of your home, but bring that love out into the world. Particularly at a time when your dog probably needs to hear happy things the most, like at the vets, in the car, or at the groomer. Maybe it is embarrassing, or maybe you think it will distract the other dogs, or maybe you think you have to be serious to be taken seriously as a dog owner, or maybe you are just distracted. I get it, and sometimes that is me too. It took having a dog who needed reassurance and monitoring to get me to where I realized the benefits of talking to my dog, and feeding him treats, and telling him he was awesome were all worth looking silly, or being loud. Giving compliments and hugs and snuggles took vet visits from a chore to a chance for bonding time, and yes, we would both rather be somewhere else, and yeah, no amount of treats and soothing words will convince him that a nail trim is fun, but a bag full of liver treats fed with a happy word makes it better for both of us, and apparently it does not happen as much as it should.
So tell your dog he is handsome. Tell her she is smart. Tell him he is sassy. And yeah, sometimes they are a jerk and needing three pokes with the needle to draw blood may be considered karmic justice for bopping the tech in the face with their paw during the nail trim, but tell them that in a loving tone too with lots of hugs.