Love the One You’re With


It’s easy to fantasize about Next Dog who will be perfect. Or nearly perfect. Especially when you’re struggling with a training issue. But instead being caught in that trap, it’s important to focus on the here and now and the dog(s) you currently have.

Mr. N and I suit each other very well for the most part. I enjoy having a driven, energetic dog who regularly tries to outsmart me. He’s one of those dogs that genuinely wants to be good and takes pleasure in being right so I’ve never had issues dire enough to consider re-homing him or anything drastic but I admit he’s driven me to tears once or twice.

Mr. N posing with the treats at Cycle Dog

He is leash reactive towards other dogs and has a moderate case of separation anxiety. I think most of my frustration with his reactivity stems from sheer embarrassment. I put hours and hours into his training and when he barks and lunges at another dog out of frustration, it looks like he’s one of those stereotypical yappy purse dogs. We’ve worked and worked and he has made huge leaps and strides and he is much better than he used to be and I harbor hope that he will be “almost cured” one day.

His separation anxiety is fear-based, however, and it’s heart wrenching. When we first adopted him, he would go into a sheer panic attack and bark almost incessantly the entire time I was gone. It’s hard to leave the house knowing that your dog is freaking out over your absence. And he’s not even one of the hardcore cases where he is being self-destructive or tearing things apart to try to get to me. These days, he’ll mostly bark on and off for a few minutes and then settle down to nap and watch the window for my return.

Our flaws and our experiences make us who we are. Mr. N survived a barren puppy-hood that had no toys, no socialization and no love and attention. His issues derive from that period, I think. I can’t blame him for being terrified of being left alone when he was left alone for so long that he never knew if anyone was coming back for him. When he was so under-socialized that when he went into foster care, he was a wisp of a dog that had to be taught everything from scratch as an adult. He is slowly getting past his past and now he’s a dog that overflows with joie de vivre and is always ready for an adventure.

I do think occasionally about my mythical next dog that will be well-socialized and have toy drive and can stay home alone without flipping out. But Mr. N is the almost perfect dog for my now and I wouldn’t replace him for all the issue-free and perfect dogs in the world. And we work constantly on his “issues” because it will improve his quality of life as well as mine.

Besides if Mr. N was perfect, he’d be insufferable. Nobody likes perfect people. Or dogs. They’re too hard to live with. Love the one you’re with.

I’m pretty sure Mr. N thinks he’s perfect. More perfect than any of these dogs anyway!

Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below. Any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin Monday, August 3rd and continues for a week. The August theme is becoming a better trainer and fixing our training failures. 




55 Responses

  1. The Daily Pip

    July 6, 2015 11:08 am

    We have many of the same issues with Ruby. She definitely has some separation anxiety issues. She has is also reactive to some dogs not all which I think stems from her past and not being sure of herself with other dogs. Other dogs also seem to sense this in her and sometimes than react back to her. We are working on it, too.

  2. Emma

    July 6, 2015 11:10 am

    No living creature is perfect, and it is a good thing as it gives us all something to work on together. My sisters and I are all stubborn independent breeds which means we are challenging, but Mom is the same kind of human, so we fit well together and if things aren't working out, tomorrow is a new day. Start fresh. A perfect dog would simply be boring says the Mom.

  3. Karen

    July 6, 2015 11:51 am

    I love me a good challenge in training, and can appreciate the terrier mentality. They're such bright and quirky little guys!

  4. Flea

    July 6, 2015 1:50 pm

    Awww. Poor Mr. N. I used to think that way, with Flash and Patches getting up in years, wondering about the next dog. Now that I have four dogs, I day dream about not having any. Is that bad?

  5. Pamela

    July 6, 2015 2:01 pm

    I wrote the flip side to your post.

    I know the pain of working with dogs suffering from separation anxiety and reactivity. But the blessing is how you build your relationship with all that work. I know you'd much rather have Mr. N feel happy and confident in everything. But all the time you've spent with him has built an amazing bond.

  6. Talent Hounds

    July 6, 2015 3:15 pm

    Kilo has many of the same issues as Mr.N. I agree with Pamela, since it is more challenging it has really brought us closer together.
    Mr.N is also pretty close to perfect lol, he's the perfect photo model that's for sure.

  7. Earl Lover

    July 6, 2015 6:08 pm

    I like the saying imperfectly perfect – this sums up most dogs very well. No dogs, as with people, are 100% perfect, in reality, but to us, they are. Difficulties are an opportunity to work on something, and have fun doing so, as a team, dog and owner.

  8. Beth

    July 6, 2015 6:22 pm

    Honestly, I think Barley's flaws are what make her perfect for me. If she wasn't reactive, we never would have discovered agility and noseworks and I can't imagine what life would be like without those activities. But I've shed plenty of tears over some of our training flaws, too!

  9. Kari Neumeyer

    July 6, 2015 6:39 pm

    Sweet Mr. N. I'm sorry about your lonely childhood. When Leo barks, I have the same embarrassment about having a stereotypical vicious German shepherd. I just have to take comfort that everyone who really knows him knows what a good boy he is behind that bark.

    We'd be wasting our talents and patience on perfect dogs, don't you think?

  10. Janet Keefe

    July 6, 2015 6:57 pm

    I love this, thank you. Luke was supposed to be my perfect dog…well trained and able to go with me anywhere and everywhere. It hasn't turned out that way but he is so great in so many ways and I know I am learning so much by having him in my life. He is so smart which makes most training fun, but his fearfulness is a huge issue, and it has driven me to tears when he just won't accept people coming to our house. It just breaks my heart that they don't get to see the wonderful side of him. But, I could not imagine our lives now without him, no matter what challenges it brings, we'll go through it together.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2015 9:54 pm

      Thanks! I wanted that dog too! And after a few years, I think we're getting close to that ideal. Difficult dogs definitely challenge you and make you learn… which is good but some days, I think we all wish for easy dogs!

  11. Jody Miller-Young

    July 6, 2015 7:07 pm

    I love this post!! Mr. N sounds so much like our Jasper, a rescue at about 8 months who probably had a similar experience as a puppy to Mr. N. Jas was a surrender to Animal Care & Control in NYC. We don't really know much about his past, except his info sheet said "Only likes owners wife. Not good with strangers; not good with children." Hmmm… Like you, we're constantly training and he's come a long way, too. Occasionally, he'll still lunge and bark at a dog or try to bite a stranger's ankle. THAT scares the heck out of us. But, all in all, he's such a lover, a kisser, so appreciative of being rescued and such a smart, good boy, that we, too, love the one we're with. Wishing us both continuous growth and improvement for our pups, and us, because I do believe they teach us so much. Thanks for this!

  12. Hawkeye BrownDog

    July 6, 2015 7:10 pm

    Hi Y'all!

    My Human says I'm as close to perfect as a dog gets and so was my Chessie sis before me. I do have one big flaw…I tend to be too verbal!

    My Humans always "pay" me a treat, each of them "pay", when they leave. They also say the same thing every time…"We'll be back". They also leave music on for me.

    Y'all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  13. Kelsie McKenzie

    July 6, 2015 9:37 pm

    Our first dog, Kaeto, had horrible leash reactivity. I worked and worked and worked with him. We would make significant progress, but then he'd lunge at another dog. I wasn't angry with him, rather embarrassed like you are. I wanted people to see him for the sweet cuddlebug he was, not the dog that lunged.

  14. Elizabeth Keene

    July 7, 2015 1:23 am

    My first dog as an adult was a fearful hound mix who'd been rescued from an abusive situation in a rural area. I was 23 and had no flippin idea what I'd gotten into. She wasn't reactive, nor did she have separation anxiety, but she was so badly spirit-broken that she'd just cower and tremble with ALL the people, other than my husband and me (mostly me). She never played with toys, or fetched, or went on walks in public (without getting nervous colitis and pooping all over the sidewalk). I thought about the "green grass" on the other side of the neighborhood (a better future dog) a lot too.

    Molly lived to be 17 (I got her when she was 2). She was the love of my life, and if I could turn back the clock to when I saw her in her crate at the Saturday pet rescue event all those years ago, even knowing her issues, I would take her again in a heartbeat.

    Hang in there!

  15. OhMyShihTzu

    July 7, 2015 6:24 pm

    I so can relate to the leash reactivity issue. I had that with my husbands Boston Terrier, it was so horrible and absolutely embarassing. But with the help of Grisha Stewart and BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) we over came the situations. I wish you luck and just know that this can be overcome!!

  16. KB Bear

    July 8, 2015 1:32 am

    I truly believe that we learn new things from each of our dogs. My current closest companion is a very fearful and sensitive dog. Her "reactivity" is expressed by cowering and fleeing. It doesn't bring the embarrassment of a barking and lunging dog but it breaks my heart.

    My other dog (who is more my husband's dog) gives me my dose of humility when he barks and lunges despite the countless hours we've spent trying to "cure" him. Actually, I've finally accepted that management is probably the best strategy in many situations. I've managed to train him not to bark and lunge when he sees the people who have helped us with training him. However, he hasn't generalized very well so management is key with other people!

    Thanks for a great post!

  17. A Nelson

    July 8, 2015 9:40 pm

    What a great post! Every dog is unique in their own way and you're right, we need to focus on the good things rather than dream about that "perfect" dog that doesn't exist. 🙂
    I agree though, my frustration is probably mostly embarrassment the last thing I want is to be categorized as a crazy "pit bull lady" with "mean pit bulls", but Ziva struggles with dog reactivity too. It's not her fault, she developed it after she was attacked by a mastiff as a puppy (nearly one year old at the time) and ever since then it's been a battle. But she keeps getting better!

  18. Groovy Goldendoodles

    July 9, 2015 2:56 am

    I'm learning to not compare Jax to Leo. I think initially I was trying to make him a lil Leo because they came from the same breeder. Not fair, Jax is perfect being Jax! Great post.

  19. Jen Gabbard

    July 10, 2015 5:16 pm

    Aww so true, I feel the same way about my dog Laika. We'd been doing so well with her leash reactivity lately – yet this morning a kid rode by on a bike and she got snippy. I was able to keep her sitting but it was still embarrassing because the poor kid looked scared out of his mind. I felt terrible. But it's all worth it when she does well, and all of the training has led to a very strong bond that I don't think I've had with previous dogs. I do sometimes think about future pets – and whether I'll end up with an "easy" one, but then I sit back and look at Laika and realize I don't mind the one I've got at all.

  20. Lara Elizabeth

    July 14, 2015 7:52 pm

    Ruby is a much different dog than I imagined, but she has taught me so much about dog behavior and body language, anxious dogs, reactivity and positive training as well as patience and creativity in my training. I really can't imagine life without her now.

  21. Val Silver

    February 12, 2016 12:33 pm

    I can relate to feeling embarrassed about a dog who lunges at other dogs. My Frenchie Lou was like that – not at first, but after a few loose dogs lunged at him while we were out walking. I tried to break him of it without success. I came to realize after he was very ill at the vets and could not act like that, that his bravado was fear aggression. If someone would give him a few minutes to get to know the dog he would be fine.

  22. MattieDog

    February 12, 2016 2:21 pm

    Oh heavens yes, if you have dogs long enough then you'll have one that just surprises you with a freak out or acting like a snarly head and being caught off guard. We're starting our training sessions with one of our most recent adoptions – same thing, the leash lung thing! Mr. N is a delight!

  23. Edie ThePug

    February 12, 2016 2:34 pm

    Before me, my humom had a dog that was fear reactive. It was a very challenging time and made it difficult for her to take the dog out on walks – always watching around each corner, trying to avoid other dogs. At home he was a wonderful dog. Having a fearful/reactive dog is challenging in so many ways – for both the dog and their owners.

  24. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    February 12, 2016 2:49 pm

    You're right – nobody is perfect, human or animal. We all have our flaws, and we should accept and love each other, flaws and all! My cats surely can drive me up a wall sometimes, but I wouldn't trade them for anything!

  25. Ruth Epstein

    February 12, 2016 4:54 pm

    Layla also has slight anxiety attacks today when I leave but she is a lot lot better, I have found leaving the TV on helps her but I am the one that feels guilty each time BOL. Like no person is perfect, neither is no pet but I would not change anything with her

  26. Kerri Irwin

    February 13, 2016 5:05 pm

    Great post and it couldn't be more true! I often catch my self day dreaming of the next dog. Its the unicorn that we can't seem to get out of our heads. Its a hard habit to break, i know i definitely have to work on it too. you should be proud of Mr. N's progress 🙂

  27. Daily Dog Tag

    February 13, 2016 7:57 pm

    You've worked wonders with Mr. N. I have felt embarrassed sometimes when my dogs bark at strangers or other dogs, but like you, I love them just the same. I don't think much about future dogs because of all the dogs in my life were usually picked out by someone else, including the three I have now.

  28. Kia

    February 13, 2016 11:56 pm

    This is a wonderful post! Love it 🙂 Simba has his flaws as well but he is an awesome dog and I wouldn't trade him for the world <3

  29. The Daily Pip

    February 14, 2016 1:24 am

    I love this post. Ruby has some separation anxiety, too. It's really hard for her and for us. I agree perfect would be kind of boring – our flaws make us interesting.

  30. Sadie and Co.

    February 14, 2016 2:24 am

    I can sympathize. Henry and Reese are both reactive on leash and Henry has separation anxiety. Thank you for sharing your experiences in such an honest and heartfelt way.

  31. Robin Mudge

    February 14, 2016 2:37 am

    You have done an amazing job with Mr. N! He seems to have come a long way in your care. I think that we all see our own imperfections in our pets and dream about perfecting ourselves the next time around. There are a ton of things that I want to do with my next cat that I didn't do with Cinco and Manna. In fact, there are mistakes I've made in "raising" my kitties that I've decided to try and correct now even though my kitties are all grown up. They have taught me a lot and made me a better person.
    -Purrs from your friends at

  32. Christine Caplan

    February 14, 2016 4:35 am

    Shermie is also reactive on leash and we've also been dealing with this for many years. She's also anxious and noise sensitive too so I totally get tis. We've worked with him for a long time and while it's manageable it's still really tough and he always gets walked separately with super high value treats. Love him so much!

  33. maryehaight

    February 15, 2016 3:39 am

    I laughed and understood perfectly your chagrin at the image people were probably conjuring of a typical yappy little purse dog…but those people don't matter and besides, what an insult to Mr. N who has, thanks to your care, come such a long way!

    I confess I never think about my "next dog" because in my world that would mean my present dog would be dead, and that is a place I won't go. I do find Tashi to be an angel, probably because I overlook any minor issues (he HATES grooming — not good for a double-coated dog);) Great post, loved the title!

  34. Sweet Purrfections

    February 15, 2016 3:40 am

    Sometimes, it's hard to not think of the next fur child that will come into our lives, but it's so important to cherish those who are currently with us. I think Mr. N. is adorable and he's very lucky to have found you.


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