I can barely concentrate long enough to write this blog, as I’m in serious pain from a root canal. Not just any root canal, but one where the dentist had to undo a previous dentist’s attempt to fill the canals all the way down, and then refill them. (Apparently, when your canals are shaped like candy canes, this presents a challenge.) So naturally, the topic of today’s blog is pain.
I’ve heard stories over the years from friends who are involved in sports such as agility, where the common theme is that their dog just couldn’t perform at a certain competition or when trying to do a specific obstacle like a jump during practice. Fortunately, these friends were wise enough to realize that something might be ailing the dog physically, and made vet visits to confirm their suspicions. But I also have seen owners who want their dogs to do something—whether it’s performing a task in a competition sport or doing something as simple as sitting—and when the dog refuses, it never crosses their mind that the dog might be in pain.
Being in physical pain is enough to make a dog “disobey” as some perceive it. This can be especially difficult during training sessions where the owner is trying to teach the dog something new. Remember when I said I could barely concentrate long enough to write this blog? If a dog is in pain, his ability to concentrate is impaired. So now we have physical pain and an inability to concentrate. If the owner isn’t aware of the problem, this scenario can easily add up to one frustrated owner, which could even end up in punishment for the dog.
I’m not suggesting that whenever a dog doesn’t comply or understand what you’re trying to teach, that pain is at the root of it. I am saying that all other things being equal, it’s a good idea to see whether there is something preventing the dog, mentally, emotionally, or physically from being able to perform as you’d like. In other words, your dog isn’t being a pain, he’s having one, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt.