I think we'll all admit, "my puppy is The absolute cutest!". And we'll all agree, that's true; every single time we say it. It's very close in nature to "My puppy is The calmest/smartest/most confident puppy ever! He/she can handle Anything!". That too is true, every single time we say it.
In reality though, whose puppy is the cutest/calmest/smartest/most confident? There is, fortunately (wouldn't want to start any hate crimes here) no answer to that and I will not be providing one. I can assure you, however, that Eclipse does Not steal any of those titles! He's certainly not the most confident dog ever, he is a golden afterall, I think a Labbie will steal that title! He's not the calmest, although he's certainly a lot calmer than Iverson. He is incredibly smart, the smartest cookie in the jar though? Definitely not. He catches on quickly and it seems to stick with him, but I've known smarter dogs. Is Eclipse the cutest puppy though? With his stream-lined face, domed head, high set ears (which were Extremely goofy when he first arrived) and "midget" size, he's certainly not the cutest puppy I've ever seen and not even in the top 10 cute blogging puppies.
Is he the perfect puppy? By no means. He's ornery, stubborn, can be fiesty, tends to be finicky and to be completely honest, kind of funny looking. Do I love my boy any less because he's not the most confident/cutest/calmest/smartest puppy around (I would put 'on the block' but he's the only puppy on the block younger than a year). Certainly not. Eclipse is my buddy and still, at this point, 'my boy'. I love him dearly just the way he is! Do I long to have a big 'blocky' headed male golden with jowls that hang halfway to his feet? Certainly. Do I miss my male yellow labs and tiny female black labs. Of course I do. Would I trade Eclipse for the world? Definitely not. Before too long now I'll have to trade him for another puppy (presumably either Evett, Eola or Fiona. Elly is too close to my name, although a Doll! Echo, Eva, & Eclipse are all presumably going north. And that, my friends, are all the puppies that will be in the swap).
When I get my newest charge will she (yes, it will be a female) be the smartest/prettiest/calmest/most confident puppy Ever? Presumably not. I have a good feel for what type of personality each of the girls I'm (presumably) lined up to get for the swap and I can tell you already, they're all darling girls, and lovely dogs in their own way (yes, they're gorgeous) but there will forever be a dog "prettier" or "cuter". There will always be a dog calmer, they can't be too calm or they'll be dropped for lack of drive (yes, it happened to a dog I know. He is probably The calmest dog ever! Verges on comatose). Are either of them the smartest, not sure, yet again, there will forever be a dog 'smarter' or 'quicker'. Most confident? I sure hope not! Over confidence in a dog, not something I want to deal with *wink*
Where am I going with this? Do I try to be careful about how I 'label' 'my' puppy? That I do. Do I try and be careful about saying how 'proud' I am of 'my' puppy? Certainly! Should we be proud of our puppies? Depends on the circumstances. If we have worked for months on a certain problem the puppy's been displaying, then they have a break through and do it Perfect, should we be proud of them? Definitely! If/when Eclipse can walk by a dog behind a fence, whether it's barking or not, without watching the dog and wanting to run away, with his tail up and ears perked, will I be proud? Certainly! We (like Lisa with Ellie) have been working on this issue since the very day Eclipse came and I will be elated the day he chills out and we get him over it. Am I proud when he's calm in public, behaves when greeting someone, walks nicely on leash, ignores his brother and sisters at class, sleeps in the car, etc? To some extent, I suppose. However, do I have pride that I got him there? Certainly not. Eclipse did all those things basically from the time he arrived. He'd lay calmly at my feet for hours, he'd ignore the puppies at class with a slight correction, he was walking perfectly on leash the first time we walked him. Am I Happy he's the way he is? Definitely. He's the way he is because, well, that's Eclipse. Could I change that? Probably, but I wouldn't want to. I could train him to pull on lead, jump on people to greet them in public, (maybe) get him to not behave in public (although that one's pushing it), keep him awake or inappropriate in the car (again, with difficulty).
The point of this post is, are we realistic in our expectations of ourselves, our puppies, our fellow raisers in this journey we take? Do we put too much emphasis on the good We've done, and not enough on what the puppy comes by naturally that is simply a captured behaviour. Yes, we train the dogs, but training is simply shaping and capturing the behaviours the animals do naturally, not conguering some magnificent feat! In some cases, it may be more difficult to shape the behaviour than in others, but the basis is the same.
Do we have the cutest/smartest/calmest/most confident puppy ever? Maybe in our own eyes, but remember, to others, it's another amazing service dog in training. The goal, although different, remains the same; to shape the dogs to be the best they can be. If that's not where we wish them to be, so what? We don't raise because of where We want Them to be, we raise to give them a chance to be where the want to be. If we don't, maybe we're raising for the wrong reason....
Ally & Alex w/ Eclipse, Teddy & Kira