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The joys of misbehavior

The dog we deserve...All my life, I've had what other people might call "problems with authority," problems that boil down to a powerful desire to be the boss of myself and an equally powerful distaste for external pressure. If someone tells me what I have to do or how I have to do it, I'll immediately start looking for a better use of my time or a more interesting approach to the given challenge. This contrary impulse has been both a blessing and a curse, but I've come to accept it as a fact of my temperament, and life has become much easier as a result. (Well, maybe not for the people around me - I'm pretty sure I'm a worse pain in the butt now than I was before I got so self-accepting!)

So why the heck would someone with an allergy to authority get into dog training? Sheer cussedness and perversity? That probably played a part, but so did the recognition of an unmet need. I've learned that there are a lot  of fellow allergy sufferers out there, people who feel the same ambivalence I do toward concepts like "obedience" and "deference," people who really dislike the idea that dogs should march in lockstep with human desires. These are my people, and they need support! They need trainers who love dogs for being dogs, trainers who can help them work through some inevitable cross-cultural misunderstandings (arms mistaken for chew toys, dead salmon mistaken for Chanel No. 5) without making them feel like slobs or failures because their dogs walk in front of them or sleep beside them or snarfle up mud when it rains.

A friend once said that her boxer gave her a "window into wildness," and I think the idea of a window beautifully captures the power dogs have to illuminate life in two directions: in toward the domesticated human world and out toward the untame-able beyond. I have to admit that, while I do love dogs who are biddable and eager to please, I've always fallen hardest for dogs who err on the side of wildness, those who have a mighty "opposition reflex" and precious little respect for assumed, unearned, or overweening authority. My favorite dogs are "bad" dogs, "stubborn" dogs, dogs with "minds of their own." When these dogs ask, "Who made you the boss of me?" I have to say, "Good question!"

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