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The Riley Files - Happy Birthday to my perfect dog

The Riley Files

Happy birthday to my perfect 2-year-old dog!

Anyone else feel the crushing disappointment of realising your 2 year old is just the same dog they were the day before?

Particularly if your dog is a large breed like mine. What happened to the promise of the perfect 2-year-old dog?

For many dogs, adulthood comes between 18 and 24 months. Meaning they have finished

their growing and reached a level of emotional maturity.

While there is no magic number, for many large breed dogs, 3 is a more reasonable age to expect dogs to calm down a bit, respond to cues, have less urgency to meet every dog and then play like a lunatic.

Since Riley was pretty out of control when I got her age 10 months, I was secretly hoping she would transform on her second birthday. Which didn’t happen. On reflection, I saw some big changes when she was around 2 and a half – she actually seemed to listen to me at times and could stay focused for longer. Some of our early training seemed to be paying off. She could walk on a lead and even handle seeing cats from afar.

My dream was to take her off-leash at the beach. When she was two, this would turn her into an over-excited hurricane, but I could take her off leash at certain parks, or a very quiet beach.

Now she is 3, I can finally let her rip at the beach, trusting her to come when called and play appropriately with all types of dogs. We have even started mat training at the beach, I can lay out a towel and she sits with me until released! But I can’t, and maybe never will, trust her off leash around cats or rabbits and that’s ok, I can manage that with a long


It’s important for me, with my big monster, to track and celebrate progress. What we get to do together now versus 2 years ago. It’s meant shifting my expectations of what a 2-year-old should do, as opposed to what was actually going on.

My dog is my perfect dog. It’s easy to forget that. She sometimes does dog things that aren’t

perfect in the human world. But she is lying at my feet as I write this because being calm in the house is one of her superpowers, something other pet parents might struggle with and I love noticing and celebrating what she can do well. One of the magic ingredients in training is time.

Being consistent and patient over time means you will get there, just maybe not on their second birthday.

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