My Scottie dog Ace will be ten years old this summer. Two years ago I started the process of getting him a puppy for company and to mentor as his eventual successor. I did this with my late, much beloved Scottie Dandy when Ace came to live with us and it worked very well in a number of ways.
The “puppy”, Blue the Standard Schnauzer, is now twenty months old and a solid 45 pounds. It has been an interesting journey and has caused me to reflect on the similar issues between training a puppy and dealing with other people.
The very first thing that should be noted is that all puppies, like people, are different. They are all individuals, although puppies of the same breed (Scotties, of which I have had four, for instance) tend to be more the same than puppies of a different breed (Standard Schnauzer for instance).
The training process with Ace, as with my other Scotties, was virtually painless. In spite of the reputation that terriers have for being difficult to train, my Scotties were virtually push-button. I would ask them to do something and they gladly did it in short order (in case you wonder, I am an alpha female, so that probably helped). Dandy eventually got to the point that he would frequently know what I wanted before I could vocalize it.
Some people are like my Scotties – intelligent, eager to please, and cheerful. They can be independent but are willing to acknowledge and accept the leadership of the pack leader. They are not wimps, they are simply good companions.
Blue, however, has been another experience altogether. Although he, too, is a very intelligent dog, Blue has presented more difficulties than the Scotties. When I ask him to do something he does not immediately do it in spite of having Ace to observe as an example of the desired behavior. His first response is to look at me as if to ask “Are you really sure about that?” When I repeat the command he moves ever so slowly to comply, just in case I change my mind. I never knew that the “sit” command could take so long to execute. Now, granted, Blue’s legs are nearly three times as long as Ace’s, but still there is a big difference in attitude at work here.
Blue’s reactions are similar to interacting with some people who either question or resist everything that they are asked to do. Working with this type of personality, be it person or dog, takes more time, effort, and patience and is more wearing than dealing with a more compliant personality type.
Like people, dogs respond differently to both rewards and punishment — what motivates one may not necessarily motivate another.
So what is my conclusion from all of this? Well I love and treasure both of my dogs. I accept them as any parent would with all of their special gifts and flaws. I will continue to work with Blue (and, hopefully, find his “fast-forward” button re executing commands) as patiently as I can. I will try to do the same with other people, but I don’t have the option of putting them in the dog run or withholding their cookies if they refuse to behave!