The waiting game

By Scott Hunt

The Dog Grumbler

 

I BELIEVE there is much we can learn from dogs, just as there is much they need to learn from us.

Dogs can teach us a lot about patience, faith, loyalty and consistency while we, for our part, need to show dogs how to succeed in a human world.

Dogs are good at patience — they need to be.

They need to learn to wait: in the company of other dogs, where each individual waits to eat, choose a bed or cross a threshold, and in the company of humans, where their day-to-day lives are bound by our timetables.

If your dog is one of the lucky ones — if it is your companion and shares in the activities that consume your day — it will learn the routines of your life and find ways to fit in.

But, it will still have to learn to wait.

In the company of other dogs, it will need to learn to wait its turn. This is natural and instinctive, but each individual dog must still refine the protocols through experience.

In human company, it will need to wait while you visit places where dogs aren’t allowed.

If you drive a car for example, your dog will learn to love riding with you. This doesn’t mean it will take to the idea immediately or welcome the first experience of being left in the car to wait for you.

Just as you might need to show your dog that it may not ride in the front, you need to show it that you will always return to the car.

Just as short trips at first allow your dog to absorb the big picture of the experience — to trust in the inevitable return home — short periods of waiting in the car teach it to trust in your return.

I have written before about the importance of ritual in dog society, about the significance of making your dog sit before you feed it, attach or remove a leash.

A dog that waits and is rewarded has an opportunity to demonstrate its respect and willingness to please.

Once shown the sequence, your dog will be happier waiting for your command to go fetch a stick or ball than it would have been had it simply run after the toy as it was thrown.

Of course, your dog will be faithful and loyal even if you just put in a big backyard and feed it whatever comes in the most impressive can, box or packet, but you won’t have what I would call a successful relationship.

You’re in charge. Show your dog how to fit into your life. Show your dog that it can rely on you, that you will always come back, that you will eventually say, “Fetch it!”

Be the boss your dog wants to serve. Make all the decisions, make all the rules and enforce them.

Create rituals that allow your dog to demonstrate its devotion.

You will find patience and faith are their own reward.