Puppies For Perfectionists / by Dana Bergstrom

I'm gonna write the sequel to this book and call it PERFECT PUPPY IN 7,000 DAYS.

That's when Ray turns 19 and he'll be too old or dead to be naughty.


As a recovering perfectionist, I've gotta say that this book makes me really happy.

Partly, because I now know better than to expect anything to be perfect. And partly, just because it's in my house.

A book about perfection in a recovering perfectionist's living room is kinda like a keg of beer in a recovering alcoholic's kitchen. The temptation to strive to be perfect is right there and somehow it has zero pull on me! Makes me smile every time I walk past it. (Thank you, Brené Brown.)

The book really is chock-full of excellent advice, and they could even shelve a few copies in the comedy section for people like me who now find the idea of perfection to be absolutely hilarious.

Anyway...unlike the perfect puppy in this book, Lil' Ray didn't come to us healthy and happy via a reputable breeder. His situation was the opposite. So Ray's positive socialization got off to a rough start.

I asked for socializing help and our generous friends and their dogs were sooooo kind and patient with Ray's fearful nipping. And since he showed great improvement with dogs one-on-one, I took him to the dog park which Ray loved more than any other place in the whole world!

Then came the fateful day at the park when a giant German Shepherd, appropriately named Magnum, decided he wasn't gonna tolerate any shit from this scared nippy puppy. In the blink of an eye, Magnum pinned Ray to the ground by his little neck and fiercely growled in his face.

Lil' Ray cried and shook.

We quickly got him out of the situation and went and played in a different part of the park. And he seemed okay.

A few hours later at our puppy class, Ray found the smallest pup in the bunch, a super tiny Rottweiler named Lola, and reenacted the entire dog park scene. Ray played the part of Magnum and Lola was Lil' Ray. The only difference was that Lola seemed completely unfazed.

Never before had Ray tried to dominate another dog.

Bullying begets more bullying. For real.

Our trainer suggested that we redirect Ray with a water bottle.

So when he went for Lola again, Ray got sprayed.

As soon as the water hit his rear end, Ray let out a high pitched scream that startled everybody in the room.

Limping and crying loudly, Ray scurried on three paws to the nearest corner where he cried some more as he licked his now completely lame leg, certain that he was mortally wounded.

Did you know that being shot with a water bottle can cripple a dog?

Me neither.

As it turns out, Ray is basically a gigantic, juicy drama queen.

Sometimes I am, too.

When Ray doesn't appreciate something, he focuses all of his energy and attention on how shitty this certain thing is and then blows the entire situation out of proportion.


Ray would love spending time playing with toys in his kennel, but only until we shut the door, when he'd exhaust himself with hours of screaming bloody murder because the closed door is ALL he can see.

He wanted freedom to run around and do whatever he wanted at our recent attempt at dog obedience class. But Ray had to be leashed like everybody else, so all his lunging and barking and biting gets us kicked out of school because Ray's lack of freedom is ALL he can see.

Several months ago I was having a really hard time with Ray's behaviors and was questioning why the hell I got this puppy in the first place.

I looked at Ray and all I could see was hard work.

But then I realized I was acting just like Ray, focusing on what I didn't like.

Hey! What if I made a list of everything I loved about him?

So that's what I did. I got out a notebook and went on a written rampage of appreciation about our puppy.

The effect on my perception was immediate.

I'd catch him being calm and tell him what a good boy he was.

I'd praise him whenever he wasn't attempting to destroy our stuff.

I'd love him up for chewing his toys instead of me.

I taught him lots of tricks so I could praise him for those.

I'd tell him how smart and sweet and adorable he is.

I laid the sugar on extra thick and our relationship changed instantly.

And even though Ray still acts like a total maniac around other dogs and I haven't been able to take him to the dog park for months because of his bullying and reactivity to certain dogs, his impulse control is stellar around tennis balls. We've made huge strides in that area in recent days.

Progress! And there's more to come.

The truth is...

Ray is already perfect.

He's perfect for me.