I was talking to someone a while back about personal fitness. 

If you didn’t know this about me…

I like bread…

Carbs are my jam. 

And gyms to me are like churches to a vampire. I’ll probably burst into flames if I tried to step foot into one. 

I primarily work in front of a computer, and while I love to hike with my dogs…

I don’t do it hardly enough. 

So truthfully, a discussion about fitness was outside of my comfort zone. 

The person I was chatting to is my polar opposite. 

He takes fitness and diet seriously, and wakes up early every day just to hit the gym. Just thinking of it produces visions of torture in my head. 

But, as we chatted, he told me something I took to heart. (I mean, I didn’t change my behavior, but it’s something I’ll remember for a good long while). 

He said, “I put in the work, so I can eat the things I want. I eat healthy most of the time, and I exercise so that, if I want a donut, I don’t have to deprive myself.” 

That statement struck me…and my joking response spoke volumes. 

I said, “I don’t put in the work, and I enjoy the reward anyway. But I definitely pay the price.”

Truth is, I have back pain, I could stand to lose (more than) a few pounds, and I have high cholesterol. I enjoy my veggies, and my diet is no worse than a vast majority of people, but there is absolutely room for improvement in the health department for me. 

Because I take the reward without working for it, I pay the price on the daily. I struggle with consequences that I’d not face if I put in the work to earn the reward, rather than just taking it because I can.  

This is an important lesson with parallels in all aspects of our lives. From our relationships with other humans, to our relationship with our dogs. 

Because how many of us take the things we want from our dogs…

Enjoy the rewards associated with having a dog in our lives…

2 yellow labs snuggle on the couch

The snuggles…

The playtime…

The joy they bring…

The unconditional love…

The shoulder to cry on…

Without working for it? 

How many of us don’t teach our dogs house manners because it’s just too much work, or we’re way too busy and instead, are forced to lock them away in crates because they can’t be trusted? 

How many of us don’t create boundaries for our dogs because it feels uncomfortable, despite the fact that not doing so can cause anxiety and behavior problems? 

How many of us don’t teach leash walking, and instead, spend a fortune on devices that make it uncomfortable or downright painful for our dog to pull…just so we don’t have to do the work? 

And how many of us get a dog when we can’t afford vet bills, aren’t financially stable, or we don’t have time to spend with them because of our busy work schedule, just because we want to experience the joy having a dog brings, despite the fact that we didn’t do the work necessary to get prepared?

Listen, I get it. This can be a hard truth to swallow. 

And with my first dog, I made ALL of these mistakes. 

Regularly taking the snuggles, the fun, and the joy, without putting in the work to ensure he had the skills to thrive and be confident in our world. 

And as a result, I paid the price…dealing with a slew of behavior problems that stemmed from my skewed perceptions of what owning a dog actually meant. 

So if you see yourself in any of the above statements…

Don’t worry. 

I did too. For a long time. 

You are definitely not alone. 

And there is absolutely no judgement here. 

But I’ll encourage you to take this to heart like I did…

Not training your dog, and not taking their needs into account is the same thing as me not going to the gym. 

It’s enjoying the rewards without working for them. 

And while it can seem like the easiest path, you’ll pay for your choices down the road (and your dog will pay for them too!). 

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    3 replies to "Tough Love: The post I wish I read when I got my first dog"

    • Lori Yearian

      So true. Most dogs want a routine and a job to do.

    • Martha

      This is where I’m at and have been at for 7 years. Because I don’t know how to get unstuck. Where to begin. Where to focus. If I’m doing it right. All this anxiety has been the foundation for making the wrong decisions when it comes to engaging with my dogs time and time again. I don’t know where to begin and how to stick with it when it gets hard. Emotionally hard mostly. Now onward to some work and progress. Thank u for the space!

    • Jacqueline Mallouf

      Which articles do you feature for bringing home a new puppy?

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