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5 Challenges that Helped Me Become a Better Dog Owner

Owning Nava has been an incredible blessing in my life. As someone who grew up with dogs, the day my fiancé and I brought Nava home during the COVID-19 pandemic became one of the happiest moments for me. The love I have for this dog is immeasurable. She follows me everywhere, becoming my little shadow, and just her presence alone never fails to brighten my day.

Bringing home a dog for the first time is like welcoming a newborn baby. Suddenly, you are responsible for caring for and loving a living being until they cross the rainbow bridge. So, where do you begin when it comes to caring for a dog? The internet offers countless resources, along with personal experiences and memories of how our parents or relatives cared for their own dogs. The abundance of information, methods, and opinions can be overwhelming, leaving us unsure of where to start.

Throughout our journey, Nava and I have faced various challenges, and I would like to share some of the significant ones we have encountered so far. However, I must note that our journey has only just begun and I make no claim that I am the best dog owner.

Let me provide a brief overview of Nava. Nava is a Norfolk Terrier from a highly reputable breeder known for producing loving, calm, and well-bred dogs. Given this advantageous start, the challenges we faced were relatively easier to overcome compared to those experienced by many other dog owners.

Together, Nava and I continue to embark on an incredible journey, filled with love, growth, and endless possibilities.

1. Positive Reinforcement: A Paradigm Shift in Dog Training

In a previous blog, I highlighted the evolution of dog training compared to our parents' and grandparents' methods. Gone are the days of using stern "no" commands, finger-pointing, and asserting alpha dominance over our dogs. Those techniques simply don't work.

That's when I stumbled upon dog trainers on Instagram, discovering a whole new world of methodologies. A Kirby Dog Training video (@kirbydogtraining) caught my attention with its emphasis on positive reinforcement. It seemed enjoyable and beneficial for the dog. I embraced this approach, and my bond with Nava grew stronger. Her recall, confidence and overall positive energy improved both at home and during outings.

One individual who truly revolutionized my perspective was my friend, Freya Coakley, from Grubby Paws (@grubbypawsdogs). She introduced the concept of using cues instead of commands. This shift in mindset was game-changing. Why should we command a dog? A cue, defined as a signal to begin an action, sounded so much more respectful. By altering my mindset, I transformed my perception of training.

Once you delve into the world of positive reinforcement, there's no turning back. It opens the door to a wonderful approach to teaching and training your dog to conquer everyday challenges.

2. Nava's Puppy Days: A Social Butterfly's Transformation

During her puppyhood, Nava adored everyone, just like most puppies do. She eagerly greeted strangers, big and small dogs, and enjoyed every moment. Growing up alongside my parents' dogs, they became her closest companions. She even had a great time at two different daycares.

However, a change occurred when Nava turned 2. Not in a negative way, but in a surprising manner. Day care became less enjoyable, too many dogs overwhelmed her, and she lost interest in interacting with other dogs during our outings. She became more cautious around strangers and quickly moved on.

Recognizing her discomfort, I realized I needed to avoid such situations. Nowadays, Nava occasionally approaches older, bigger dogs or wags her tail at strangers, but mostly she ignores them. Our walks now involve quieter areas, promptly moving away from dogs if their owners don't respect her signals, and we limit interactions with people unless she shows interest. Young children are a big no-go.

3. Embracing the Urban Life and Finding Joy in the City Again

In the past, I used to blame myself for choosing to keep Nava in the bustling city. I would often feel guilty, thinking she deserved a more natural and serene environment. However, as time went on, I realized that dwelling on the past wouldn't change our circumstances. Instead, I focused on making the most of our current situation.

We ventured out of the city whenever possible, exploring nearby parks and countryside, allowing Nava to experience the joys of nature. Moreover, I discovered hidden gems within London itself—quiet parks, dog-friendly quiet pubs, and lesser-known green spaces—that Nava adored, reminding me that happiness can be found anywhere with the right perspective.

4. The Importance of Me-Time: Learning to Leave Nava at Home

When I first brought Nava into my life, I couldn't bear the thought of being apart from her. She became my constant companion, accompanying me wherever I went. However, I soon realized that it was crucial for both of us to have our separate times. It wasn't healthy for me to constantly rely on her presence, and it wasn't fair to her either.

Leaving Nava at home while I went out became a necessity. At first, all I could feel was guilt, worrying that she might be bored or lonely without me. But I had to remind myself that apart from our walks, she spent most of her time comfortably in our flat. I came to understand that it was okay for her to have her own quiet moments, just as I needed mine.

Another challenge we faced was Nava's sudden dislike to travel. Witnessing her shaking and panting during car rides made me so sad. As a result, I made a conscious decision to limit our journeys to essential trips only, such as visiting my parents. 20 minutes in the car became the extent of our travels.

Our preferred mode of travel is biking, with Nava comfortably enjoying her backpack rides. She absolutely loves it, making our adventures together even more enjoyable.

By acknowledging the importance of separate experiences and respecting Nava's comfort, we have found a healthier balance in our lives. I don’t need to take her everywhere, that’s ok and she is ok. It is a constant reminder that my needs and her needs can coexist harmoniously, ensuring that we both thrive in our own unique ways.

5. A Journey of Patience

Owning Nava has taught me the power of patience. While she has brought so much joy to my life, there have been moments of frustration. Like when I'm in a rush for my business and she decides that today is the day for a slow, leisurely sniffy walk. In those instances, I've had to learn the art of taking a deep breath, embracing the unexpected, and adapting to the situation at hand.

Instead of allowing frustration to take over, I've learned to let go of rigid plans and be more present and in the moment. It's in those unplanned walks that I've found unexpected moments, observing the world through Nava's eyes. As I walk beside her, I listen to a podcast (My Favourite Murder), allowing whatever topic to redirect my impatience and remind me of the importance of just taking a chill pill.

Through these experiences, Nava has transformed me into a better person. I've developed a deeper respect for the needs and desires of both dogs and people. Patience has become almost my goal as a human being, wanting to learn to navigate various situations with composure and understanding.

Nava has become my patient teacher through all of her tests, reminding me that life's best moments are often when we least expect it. Just take a deep breath and continue.


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