Do dogs get acclimated or accustomed to exercise, dog training or the dog park and do they come to expect these activities?
Let us first define expectations (premeditated resentments) as is most commonly used. An expectation is to live in the future. Dogs do not live in the future nor do they sit around and sulk all day because his/her expectations were not met. If a dog does not get what he/she wants, the disappointment is an ephemeral moment that is over almost as quickly as it arose. The consequences of expectations not met and/or fulfilled are moot. In stark contrast to a person, a dog does not experience pain and suffering with regard to their failed expectations. Humans with our larger prefrontal cortex, oftentimes live in the future and past. This lack of presence offers us much pain and suffering and is the antithesis of conscious awareness enlightenment. Our large prefrontal cortex can be both a blessing and a curse. When we expect something, we are living in the future. An expectation cannot occur in the past nor the present. A dog is the epitome of carpe diem and presence which leads me to my story.
It was a beautiful sunny day while I was in the Los Angeles dog park training with one of my clients when we got to talking about socialization. Her dog absolutely loved other dogs and off-leash playing but she rarely, if ever, went to the dog park or exercised her pup. I was explaining to her how socialization and exercise were essential for her dog’s growth, enrichment, mental health, socialization, and physical well-being. She replied, that even though she could bring her dog to the park once or twice a week she didn’t because she didn’t want her pup to get used to it or expect this daily. I was completely taken off guard and wasn’t sure what she meant. When I asked her what she meant by “used to it”, she explained that her dog has a lot of energy and that if she took her to the dog park to play with other dogs or trained with her, that her pup would expect that all the time and since she could not take her dog to the park or train with her all of the time she didn’t want to start or even do it at all. As I probed deeper, she went on to say that she didn’t want her pup to get stronger, more muscular or more endurance by getting used to coming to the park.
Do Dog Expectations Exist?
This is not the first time I have heard this so I wanted to address these concerns. Let’s start with a dog’s expectations or lack thereof. When a dog learns he/she may build routines and consistency and both of those are helpful and healthy for a dog but not suffer from expectations in the same way people do. Expectations are inextricably tied to thoughts about the future. Dogs don’t hold grudges and live in the now, the opposite of expectations. This is part of the beauty of dogs and their being, carpe diem. The expectation about not dog training or going to the park and doing something else instead is a momentary, fleeting event that they blow off like the wind. Not something harped on but ephemeral and easily forgotten. If humans had this quality, “expectations” wouldn’t be a dirty word (as it is with many). This ease of moving on, change, malleability, and easily adaptable life form is part of why canids domesticated better than any other animal ever has. They adjust and there is no disappointment associated with an expectation that did not come to fruition. So do yourself and your dog a favor and toss your thoughts of expectations into the sea, where they belong. Dog’s do not care, so why do you?
This is not a heretical debate, dogs need exercise, education (dog training), enrichment, socialization (to animals at both ends of the leash), healthy nutrition and all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. While Maslow made this visual representation for humans it is very applicable for all animals, even the part about ethics. Fears of building a dog’s stamina or muscles or making them more energetic by bringing them to the dog park is akin to not wanting to go to the gym yourself to exercise because you are afraid of getting into shape and building your muscles. Too silly to really give thought or ink to. It just makes no sense. It would fulfill you and your dog in just the same manner, it wouldn’t cause an uncontrollable yearning to go to the gym every hour or even every day or make your muscles so big you would have to go out and buy new clothes. However, it would create a feeling of homeostasis, health, fulfillment, and harmony in your life. Please do not ignore, dog park etiquette as it is a must, but exercise and socialization off-leash with his/her peers is vital to a dog’s growth, physiological system, mental and physical health. To postulate otherwise would be a disservice to your best friend. My entreaty would be to take your dog to the park, practice dog training often and let them socialize and exercise often and watch them grow happier and more fulfilled by the day.