Relationship lessons from a puppy

Last week my family brought home a new puppy. He's a Maltese/Shih Tzu fluffball who is as cute and good-natured as can be.

He is also the first dog I've ever owned.

In addition to being fun and exciting, this week has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for me, depending on how the puppy behaves and whether I think I'm doing things right. When the puppy does what he's "supposed" to do, I feel great! When he pees on the floor, not so much.

More experienced dog owners have been chuckling at my emotional drama because they can see that it comes from inexperience and unrealistic expectations. Relax, they say, your puppy is just being a puppy! He hasn't learned yet. They remind me that whatever I'm feeling -- whether it's frustration or elation -- says way more about me than the dog.

It seems to me that the same thing applies in our human relationships, too. We can create all sorts of unnecessary pain and drama for ourselves by holding unrealistic expectations for other people, and reading more meaning into situations than is justified.

Often we expect other people to act in ways that are pleasing to us, and get frustrated when they don't. But who says they're supposed to just because we want them to? What if they haven't yet learned the trick we're asking them to perform, or don't care about the reward we are offering? 

We also often assume that when people do things that cause us pain, they intended to cause us pain. But that's hardly ever the case, any more than a puppy is being mean-spirited when he chews up our favorite shirt. People do what works for them, which often has nothing to do with us at all. 

People, just like puppies, are simply being who they are, given the life circumstances and training they've received so far. We can punish them for that, and try to force them to be another way, damaging our relationship in the process. Or we can appreciate the one actually in front of us -- even if they pee on the floor from time to time.

I think I am going to be learning a lot from this new furry friend of mine.