I have never had three dogs who were as different as Frieda, Lenore and Red, never had three dogs who were as comfortable with one another as these three are, never had three dogs who present, each in their own way, training challenges and opportunities.
There are a dozen best-selling dog training books on various lists online and in stores right now that promise their buyers ten or twelve or a half-dozen steps towards having the "Perfect Dog." If somebody wrote a book like that promising parents the "Perfect Child" in just a dozen steps there would, appropriately, be an uproar at such an idea. I find the notion of the "Perfect Dog" as offensive as it is ridiculous.
There is no such thing as a perfect dog, no agreement on what that would be, no book that could or should guarantee such a creepy thing. I was thinking about what a perfect dog is to me. We all love our own dogs and sometimes see them a bit unrealistically but I have my own ideas about perfection, and it has little to do with obedience.
For me, a perfect dog is socialized. With other dogs and with people. He or she is loving and intuitive, can read my moods. A perfect dog does not hurt animals or people unless profoundly provoked.
A perfect dog knows its name, comes when called, stops when asked.
A perfect dog waits for the human to go in and out of doors first, and does not crash ahead of them without permission.
A perfect dog eats his or her own food and leaves other food bowls alone. And never eats from the table or pesters people while eating. A perfect dog does not jump on people or frighten them.
A perfect dog understands that a person directs his walk, that he is not a free agent free to lunge and pull whenever he wishes.
A perfect dog can lie down and stay for two or three minutes.
A perfect dog is quiet in the house, leaving people in peace to relax or do their work.
A perfect dog knows how to be calm, to be in crates, to be alone, to be in kennels, to stay with pet-sitters.
All three of my dogs do these things. They are not perfect. Frieda will take off after deer and rabbits if she can. And she barks too loudly at too many things. Lenore is not crisp on her come or stay commands, especially if there is something to eat. Red…well, I haven't found too many things yet that Red doesn't do properly. He gulps his food down and runs into doors, but so far, that's about it. But he is not perfect either, and I would not damn him with such a pressure-filled and ridiculous label.
Everyone has their own ideas about what they want in a dog, and everyone is entitled to pursue them, as long as other living things are not harmed.
I am learning to train my dogs, every day, with commitment and purpose. But my goal is never for them to be perfect. Just to be good enough for me in my life, and safe and healthy in theirs.