Zuzu turned 2 years old on October 28 (2015). She was just six weeks old when we brought her home. Just a tiny little thing. But even before we brought her home, we could see she was going to be a tough cookie who stood up for herself. We first met her when she was just under three weeks old. We visited her each week until we brought her home. During one of our last visits, one of her brothers stepped on her or bumped into her and she whipped around and snarled at him. That was a sign of things to come!
When we needed to collect Zuzu or direct her somewhere she did not want to go, her first response was to get feisty. She was an assertive dog who knew what she wanted and was not afraid to say so. And not afraid to stand up to anyone who tried to tell her otherwise.
At nearly two years old, she has come a long way. She has learned how to handle herself in better ways. She has learned how to communicate in less obnoxious ways. She has learned that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do. That's life. Does she still get feisty sometimes? Oh, absolutely, but we know that is a part of her personality that will never completely go away. But that does not mean we blindly accept it and make excuses for her. She has learned how to control herself better and is continuing to do so.
I often hear from clients that they were told by previous trainers or other people that you can never change certain behaviors. If a dog has bitten someone, they will always bite. If a dog has darted out the door and run off, they will always do so. If a dog has killed a small animal, they will always have a taste for blood. Some of these behaviors can be difficult to change, but it does not mean the dog is not capable of controlling their impulses and learning better ways to respond to situations.
Rather, these tendencies – whether they are breed tendencies or specific to that individual – are merely things we take note of and understand how they are going to help or hinder our end goal. They are not an excuse, but they do help us understand where we might need to focus more of our efforts.
Do I wish Zuzu were a little less assertive dog about things sometimes? Yes, surely. But there are also times when I love her ability to assert herself and not be easily pushed around. Depending on the circumstances, an undesirable trait in one case can be a highly desired trait in another situation. It all depends on your perspective.
While Zuzu's assertiveness can seem like a detriment when it contradicts what I want her to do, it is also a desirable trait when she needs to get past something that frightens her or when she has to deal with another dog who can be a bully and push others around. Because of her particular traits, she is resilient and able to move past things that other dogs would have a hard time moving on from.
Happy birthday to my resilient little pistol, Zuzu!