Who is happier, me or my dogs? The Expert Amateur

Hello to everyone out there who is taking the time to check out this blog.  First, and most important, I AM a happy owner of two happy dogs (Tibetan Terriers) but happiness - even mine - can vary from day to day and even hour to hour.  The purpose of this blog is first, to have fun, second to share some of my good and not so good experiences in learning how to be a dog owner as a middle-aged adult, and third to invite your feedback in how your happiness and your dog's may be inter-related.

As a way of introduction, let me tell you a bit about myself and my background.  I am a clinical health psychologist in the Chicago metropolitan area specializing in behavioral (note the "behavior") medicine who works primarily with cancer patients.  About 4 years ago, we acquired our first puppy (a male, named Wigglebutt Duncan) and about a year ago we acquired a sibling for him (a female, named Isadora Duncan, aka, Izzy).  As you all know, it's not easy working full-time and having not only one but two dogs.  Fortunately they go to work with my husband 4 days a week and spend a majority of their weekends with me.  So I guess we are a "pack" although that term is frowned upon by strict ethology (behavioral science of animals) standards.

Because I am a psychologist, I became interested in what I (as an owner) need to do with, and understand about, my dogs in order to not only have a peaceful life but a happy one.  I am still in the process of my learning curve, and my ever growing library about dog behavior and learning now contains over 33 dog-related books.  I have gone through basic obedience with my dogs, and participated in Rally-Obedience on an intermittent basis with my older male dog.  I also learned that socialization (ongoing) is critical, how to try to manage fear, how to manage ongoing developmental changes in dogs as they mature, and how to use positive reward-based training rather than punishment.  I think that warrants the designation of an "expert amateur." However, lest you think I am an expert, I will be linking you to a YouTube of my disastrous agility training experience with WigglebuttDuncan who did and continues to make his own decisions at times and to have 'selective deafness' in a future blog. Did I mention that you have to have a sense of humor when you own a dog?

Of course, I would like to brag that all this reading and classes has contributed to a goal of 100% perfect dog, perfect owner, but that is totally out of the ball park and I have learned that the breed of dog I own has a mind of its own when it comes to what it will do or not.  So my learning curve is ongoing.  And I still have my sense of humor.

Finally, let me tell you what I am NOT.  I am not a certified animal trainer nor have I attended classes to become one, so if there are critical issues with your dog, I strongly urge you to consult with one rather than ask me, although I am always happy to make suggestions.

So enjoy participating in our shared journey.  I'd love to hear about your experiences as well.  Feel free to email me directly with any questions, comments, or post suggestions that you think would be fun or relevant at suey@bumperpet.com.

Sue (Expert Amateur, Ever Learning, Ever Laughing)

WigglebuttDuncan, my muse, and

Isadora Duncan (aka Izzy, aka "destructo-girl")