I hate to say this, but Lassie was a boy!

Its that moment we all dread happening to our kids…. The realisation that Santa isn’t real…. I know, I know… some of you will be reading this in shock… go get a stiff drink, because there is more bad news on the way!

Did you also know ‘Lassie’, the gold standard by which all dogs across the world are measured, wasn’t a girl!!

That’s right people… Lassie was a boy! In fact Lassie was several boys!! All identical in appearance, and trained to perfection but none of which were female!!

I can sense the disbelief and hear the sound as childhood dreams are shattered!

So the icon on which we base our standard and ideology of what and how dogs should behave is in fact a ‘lie’….. well not a ‘lie’, but certainly not ‘reality’.

The irony is, that this has caused so much damage across the world for dogs of all shapes and sizes.

See, so many dogs are expected to adhere to a fallacy created by images, and illusions in the media. And if they don’t, they are labelled as problematic, weird, odd, dangerous, or discarded.

The fact that one of the most iconic canine stars of the silver screen wasn’t even as depicted, is ironic to say the least.

We have been conditioned to believe and expect unrealistic ideals of our dogs, and as a result our dogs are labelled as problematic when they don’t ‘conform’.

Lets take the simplicity of dog to dog interactions.

The imagery we have been flooded with is dogs meeting, frolicking in long grass, bounding happily with each other, with out a single incident, or cross word.

Now that is most definitely the thing of a Disney film!! It just isn’t reality. Don’t get me wrong, we can ‘teach’ and build our dogs confidence and experience up, so they ‘learn’ to have well rounded social skills, but it is perfectly normal for your dog to take a dislike to another dog… and even show a level of anxiety, concern or aggression! It’s perfectly ‘normal’. And as a result we can teach and educate our dogs to behave perfectly ‘abnormally’, by learning to meet random strange dogs and show disinterest or in difference. But to expect or be disappointed when they don’t have these skills is grossly unfair.

Additionally, the dog that walks on a loose lead, or chooses not to chase wildlife, or come back when you call, or settle in your home, or get on with your cat… the list goes on and on.

Of course there are dogs that do have these innate skills and bombproof temperaments, but they aren’t the norm, they are the exception. And whilst we can discuss the need to select and breed dogs with these attributes above other traits, this is probably unrealistic. There are literally billions of dogs on this planet, and I suspect the smallest percentage bred with these as a priority.

See Lassie was a product of training… he was ‘taught’ to do do the behaviours as depicted on screen. As are the countless dogs seen in movies, television and media.

When I was approached to be part of a television series which wanted to take 12 rescue dogs and teach them the skills and behaviours needed to fly a plane, in the sky series ‘Dogs might Fly’, the first priority was to teach the basics…. Recall, sit, down etc and then prepare the dogs for the plethora of situations they would be put into.

These were dogs from various backgrounds, who had been in rescue kennels. Even the simplicity of learning to relax and remain calm, was not ‘natural’ to them.

One of my 3 dogs was a malinois! Settling and relaxing was most definitely not natural!! But to be able to be on ‘set’, this was a mandatory requirement.

So, Tess was taught… educated and trained to ‘settle’. She was exercised and stimulated mentally so she found it easier to ‘chill’. She was given an outlet for her energy, and taught to be focused on me. Her confidence was nurtured and built so she could cope in any situation. She trusted me and flourished.

These skills meant she was not only able to take everything that was thrown at her in her stride, the real ‘Disney’ ending was that she was homed to one of the crew!! Now that, is a story worth telling!

The sooner we dispel the myths created by movies, and tune into ‘reality’, the better chance of helping create happy, well adjusted dogs across the world, rescues won’t be over run with discarded unwanted perfectly ‘normal’ dogs, and there would be more acceptance, compassion and understanding for those that are dealing with ‘normal’ dog problems. There would be less stigma and more success!

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