Every dog has a big, amazing heart. All of their other characteristics are ”like a box of chocolates” and while certain breeds tend to possess certain attributes (agility, temperament, etc.) “You never know what you’re gonna get”. Of course training and environment can weigh heavily in both a dog’s personality and its physical capabilities, however every animal will ultimately be itself. Our job is to make them their healthiest and happiest selves.
My last two beloved dogs have both fallen into the category of “challenging”. They were both shelter dogs with little to nothing known of their pasts despite being over 4 years old and in poor health. Even a dog you raise from a puppy can become a challenge despite your best efforts and mature dogs have not often seen people making their best efforts. Without compiling an extensive list of every quirk (of which there are many), my current furry friend is large (130 lbs), she has dietary restrictions due to digestive issues, she has limited mobility in her hind legs, she is wildly protective of the home and she does not always enjoy the company of other dogs.
In the few years that she has been with me, I have seen significant improvement in all of these challenges. I am certainly not a gifted dog behaviorist, but with the help of a trainer(s), a little patience and an undying love, we have made some headway. Will any of these issues go away entirely? I doubt it, but it is amazing how easily her challenges can be accommodated. We have nailed down exactly what foods she can digest and what we need to avoid (she is unfazed by the lack of variety). We pick the terrain and duration of our walks carefully to avoid further damage to her back legs while ensuring she gets enough exercise to keep her strong. She has learned to warm to most people and dogs once we figured out that there is an introduction process required (treats sure help). Walks require vigilance whether on or off leash so that we keep both her and other dogs out of harm’s way.
When all is said and done the effort is minimal compared to the reward. When she cozies up to me while I read or greets me with those big brown eyes when I come
home, all is right in the world. I heard a valuable piece of advice about relationships a long time ago that stuck with me. They said to love someone exactly as they are right now. If you can accept that they might never change, you will live happily together. If you go in expecting them to become something else you are setting them up to disappoint you. My “challenging dog” has always been loved exactly as she is and my life has been so much better for it.