Monday, November 2, 2009


Dear Mrs. Ditter,

I have a good friend, whom I'll refer to as GF; we often walk our dogs together.  When I went on vacation recently, GF took care of my dog, Ms. X. Before this trip, GF made it clear that she finds my dog loud and unpredictable.  This is somewhat true, but I also find that I do much better handling Ms. X when I am alone than when I am with GF, in part because GF is always letting me know what I should be doing different.  
While I was on vacation, GF trained Ms. X to stop barking when she thinks someone is leaving the house.  This is a good thing, and I feel grateful. But I am also a bit irritated.  First, because GF didn't ask my permission to train her, and second, because when we next went on a walk and I called Ms. X back to me, GF called her too (she has done this before). I said, "GF, she is my dog.  Please let me call her myself."  Her response was to tell me why my way of doing it was wrong.

I get it that she's a better dog owner than I am.  But Ms. X is my dog, not hers!  I am a more rambunctious person generally, and I don't dislike all of Ms. X's loudness.
I think I probably need to say something about this to GF.  Or do I just need to suck it up and live with it?  After all, GF did me a favor.  I also think I need to find someone else to care for my dog, no matter how inconvenient that might be.
What do you think?--Ms. X's Human

Oh, my. Many of us have faced this dilemma with our kids; sounds as if you're going through it with your dog. Your parenting skills are being called into question and it doesn't feel good.

A couple of thoughts here: First, your friend, although she sounds like a terrific dog trainer, appears to have underdeveloped social skills. You've been politely clear with her about your wishes (asking her not to call your dog), and she's responded by telling you what you're doing wrong. No wonder you feel irritated. However, you may need to take her as she is and not expect great empathy or connection.

Second, you might want to examine your thought that "GF is a better dog owner" than you. You're a different person, you enjoy having a more rambunctious dog, you're not abusing your dog in any way. Stop throwing shoes at yourself.
Third, definitely find someone else to take in your dog when you go on vacation. You're on an emotional hook with this person and it's time to release yourself from any further sense of obligation.
As far as saying something to your friend or just sucking it up, hmm. She's already shown that she doesn't hear you when you talk to her (sounds like some dogs I know!). You might try this: On your next walk, if she calls Ms. X, tell her that you don't want her to call your dog. If she again tells you that you're doing it wrong, tell her that's not the point. The point is Ms. X is your dog, and you are the one to call your dog, and you want her to understand and respect this. Her reaction might point out whether you have a true friendship or just a dog-connection.
It's hard to sustain a close friendship with someone who is always pointing out your deficiencies. If you value GF's dog training tips, then by all means keep walking with her. But if her lack of respect for your wishes is poisoning your friendship, you may benefit by stepping back a little.
Let me know how it goes.
And as always, I look forward to your comments and your questions. 

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