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Dogs aren’t good or bad...and my thoughts on the dogs who need us most

Let’s quit calling dogs “good” or “bad.”

I don’t think there are good and bad dogs. I think there are dogs who are easy and dogs who are hard, and everything in between.

The irony of this topic is that we humans have plenty of quirks, and yet we expect our dogs to have none.

When I hear people complain about their dogs, it’s usually because they aren’t “easy.” I think people often have this unrealistic ideal of what their dogs should be: loving but not too needy, upbeat but not hyper, gentle with children, great with all other animals, not destructive, and totally healthy.

But realistically, that’s just not all dogs. That’s not even most dogs. I’ve had the privilege of knowing and loving many dogs over the past 15 years. And the one thing they’ve ALL had in common is this: they could only be themselves.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth have to meet them where they are. Time, consistency, love, and positive reinforcement-only training help, sure, but some dogs are just harder than others. They just are. And there will be accommodations you have to make to set them up for success and make it a workable situation in your home.

I’ve had dogs who bite, who are selective of what other dogs they like or will even tolerate, who will ingest anything laying around, and a variety of other challenges. They were all wonderful dogs who did the best they could and loved me fiercely. But they were hard. Worth every effort, every dollar, every sacrifice. But hard. Consistent strategies had to be employed, caution and common sense had to be exercised, and an unyielding commitment had to be made.

Sure, the easy dogs are wonderful; my easy dogs have brought me so much joy. But there’s something about loving a hard dog. It stretches you...makes you less selfish...teaches you empathy for other beings (furry and human alike)...makes you find beauty in the simplest things. And the bond you form is incomparable. I am a better person for having walked alongside difficult dogs.

I encourage you to not shy away from the hard dogs. Yes, be realistic about what you are willing to accommodate, but know that those dogs who aren’t “the perfect dog” are worth it, too. In fact, they might just change your life as much as you change theirs.

This post is dedicated to Roo and Gus, the hardest dogs I ever loved. Thank you for every moment. You were so worth it, and I miss you every day.