Saturday, November 26, 2005

Always Ready Yes; But Always Able?

One of the things I love about Labs is their eagerness. They're always ready to play or work or train or do whatever we ask them to do.

It doesn't matter what we have in mind.

All we have to do is say their names, and they're there (reminiscent of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" or of the biblical prophet Samuel who heard his name called and immediately responded with "Here I am").

Unlike so many human types, our canine friends faithfully respond to our calls.

They show up.
With enthusiasm.
Eager to please.
Willing to do their best.

How many humans do the same when called upon to do something?

Okay, I'll admit there are exceptions (like when they're reluctant to stay behind when one of the other dogs is going out with Don to train). But overall our Labs are eager to please and will do what we ask.

That is, if they have the ability.

One of the parenting books I read when my human children were young talked about the difference between "willful definance" and "childish irresponsibility." A child who stomps her foot and says "no, I won't clean my room and you can't make me" is being willfully defiant. That's entirely different than the child who forgets to put her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper (she's not willful, just forgetful) or who falls asleep working on her room because she's so tired (again, not willful, just physically unable at that time).

Parents have to decide if their children's lack of compliance is a matter of attitude or inability.

My brother-in-law is a Director of Human Resources for an information techonology firm, and when dealing with employees who aren't doing what they've been asked to do, he has to decide if the issue is a matter of "will" (an "I won't" attitude) or "skill" (an "I can't" issue).

Bosses have to decide if their workers' lack of compliance is will or skill.

As parents or bosses, how we handle lack of compliance depends on the reason behind it.

I think the same goes with dogs. Is their non-compliance, when it occurs, attitude or inability, will or skill?

Our Labs are always ready to please us (it's characteristic of the breed), so when they don't comply we have to ask why?

Sometimes it's immaturity.
Sometimes it's puppy-ish irresponsibility.
Sometime it's ignorance (they truly didn't know any better).
Sometimes it's a need for more development or training.

And, yes, sometimes it's will.

Labs can be stubborn when they want to be. But usually there's a reason behind it. Sometimes the reason is clear (as in Elsie's current "I don't want to wear this stupid diaper" or "I don't want to be crated when Ridge is out," both of which she has to do while in heat, as she is again right now). Sometimes it's less so.

But good parents (of dogs or kids) take the time to find out why.

Our "kids" (whether two- or four-legged) will love us all the more for it. And, to boot, they'll respond better next time.

Here's to understanding our "kids," whoever they may be, and treating them as they have need.

'Til next time,

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