The Perfect Puppy

Jeremy Sharp, PhD stress & anxiety, therapy Leave a Comment

Ah, puppies. Cute, fluffy, adorable little creatures. The embodiment of all that is right with the world…innocent little things that capture your heart and never give it back. Right?

Right. Unless this adorable creature is eating my shoes, dragging our laundry throughout the house, or getting sick because he chose to eat sticks from the backyard instead of his own food. Or – my favorite – crying in the middle of the night until we take him out of the crate (“He must have to go to the bathroom, right? He’s only a puppy, of course he has to go to the bathroom”), only so that he can go lie on the deck and gaze at us smugly. Aahhh!

I get a little frustrated with him sometimes. His unpredictability and do-as-I-care puppy attitude shatters my illusion of control in this world. Before we got him, I was convinced that we were totally prepared – I read all the books, researched training methods, bought all the “right” equipment, food, etc. We were ready. Apparently he didn’t get the memo, because he’s not doing exactly what we expect him to!

Dealing with all this unpredictability has forced me to confront my own perfectionism and need to do things the “right” way. While I started with the idea that enough preparation could prevent mishaps and allow us to raise the perfect puppy, each passing day reminds me that it simply isn’t possible. And that it’s no fun to try, because expectations of perfection inherently go unmet. Which leaves me disappointed and him confused as to why I’m not celebrating the fact that he’s biting my face.

Many of my clients struggle with perfectionism as well. I think we all do to some degree. It’s a fear-based way of living, right? “If I can do everything perfectly (whatever that looks like), then I have control, and then I can predict outcomes and ensure that my world isn’t threatened.” Just like that, we’ve developed a false sense of security.

I’ve been working hard to give myself the same guidance that I give my clients – be easy with yourself, give yourself permission to mess up, know that it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go exactly according to plan. I think the real work here is developing a sense of compassion for ourselves, just letting ourselves “be” in our imperfection and knowing that this is okay. It doesn’t hurt to have a loving support system that can help foster these beliefs as well.

Even now, I’m finding myself going over and over this post, trying to make sure it’s “perfect.” So I’m going to let this go and just let it be as is 🙂 Besides, the puppy just dragged my jeans into the living room again…


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