Welcome to the second installment of what I'm hoping will be a fun series: "Dog-lovers' dating dilemmas." In the series kickoff, I explored the question of how dog-owners navigate the world of sleepovers while dating. After all, one owner claimed, dating a dog owner basically means you can't sleep over at their place because you can't leave your dog alone overnight.
And now I come to you with another in the long list of dog-lovers' dating dilemmas.
Take a look to the left of this paragraph. That was posted in the Facebook group for fans of the Can I Pet Your Dog podcast over the weekend. The poor writer of the post is upset because her puppy is behaving, well, like a puppy and her boyfriend wants to bring said puppy to a shelter for doing exactly what you'd expect a puppy to do without proper training. And the poster wants some advice so they don't wind up taking their newest addition to a shelter.
Further posts go on to detail that the aforementioned boyfriend really has no clue about how to train a dog and how much patience training a puppy truly entails (I don't mean to bash the guy, but if his behavior has been accurately described, he really is clueless about dog training). And a lot of good advice was given to this poor soul: Have the boyfriend take the puppy to obedience classes (excellent idea). Have the boyfriend be involved in the puppy's training (aces). Obedience classes are as much about training the owners as they are about training the dogs (I know this is true from experience).
But another piece of advice also got tossed out there. The advice? Dump the boyfriend.
Now, how seriously people were suggesting it, I'm not sure. At least one person said that if her significant other were behaving like this guy, she'd give him the boot. But most of the cries to send the boyfriend to Dumpsville seemed somewhat tongue in cheek.
But tongue in cheek or not, the advice does bring up an interesting question: Can a couple who disagrees over how to train their dog stay together? Or for that matter, should they?
Think about this: If one partner is all about force-free training (commonly referred to as "positive reinforcement," though that's kind of a misnomer ... but that's a whole other post) for the dog while the other prefers to control the dog via positive punishment (the training often exemplified by the old standbys of whacking the misbehaving dog with a rolled-up newspaper or rubbing their nose in it when they pee on the floor), that's a big problem for a couple reasons.
First off, training techniques that involve severe physical punishment are based in fear. Yes, the dog won't perform the bad behaviors in front of you, but only because it will have been taught that those behaviors could result in severe pain/discomfort. And constantly looking over its shoulder like that is no way for a dog to live. Think about it: Would you want to live a life where you're constantly worried that the slightest mistake could cause someone to choke you or slap you or hit you with a newspaper? You'd behave, but you would be living in a constant state of crippling fear.
Perhaps even more important is what the willingness to use physical punishment to train a dog can indicate. Think about this: A couple that adopts a dog together is likely in it for the long haul, which means they may have kids together someday. If a puppy's behavior causes one partner to lash out physically, what will happen with a baby when it gets on that partner's last nerve? I'm not sure we want the answer to that question.
So what does all this mean for the poor Facebook poster who just wants her boyfriend to understand that puppies require lots of patience and work and that physical punishment is more detrimental than anything? Is her relationship doomed? Can two people who differ greatly on how best to train and/or discipline a dog have a successful relationship? Should she take the puppy and kick him to the curb?
I'll answer the last question first: No, I don't think she should kick him to the curb ... yet. If he's willing to learn along with the puppy and his behavior/ideas about training evolve a good bit, I'd say the relationship can last. But if he refuses to try anything else or gives up on the puppy just because it's acting like you'd expect a normal puppy to act, she should send him to Dumpsville on the next redeye.
But I'm only one guy. My opinion isn't the only one out there. I want to hear from you. Leave comments here or on Facebook. Let's get some discussion going.
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