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The perfect dog for the practicing Buddhist.

May 22, 2018

Buddhism, virtue, and dogs..

Although I have studied enough Buddhism to determine that I am not a Buddhist, I still think about Buddhism sometimes.

I have come to the conclusion that the Miniature Schnauzer (although I am not Buddhist, I do own one of these dogs) would be a perfect breed for the serious practitioner of Buddhism, and anyone else who is dedicated to cultivating the virtues of compassion and self-discipline.

Here are my thoughts on this subject, which I first posted on my blog, wandering-spirit.com The post is entitled, “The perfect dog for the practicing Buddhist.”

Even if you are not a Buddhist, as I am not, you might still find this post worth reading, especially if you are interested in character development, and in dogs.

Buddhism is about challenging oneself. Working on one’s patience. Working on acceptance and developing the wisdom to figure out what one can change, and also learning if what one can change is worth the effort. In short it is about wisdom, balance and acceptance.

I have a Miniature Schnauzer named Tucker. Through experience, and from what I’ve learned since I bought a Schnauzer three years ago, I can tell you this breed is perfect for the devoted and practicing Buddhist, and anyone else wishing to put in the thought and effort needed to with learn what can be changed, what cannot be changed, accepting what cannot be changed, and mustering the effort to change what can be changed.

The Miniature Schnauzer, as I have learned through research, and especially experience, is a difficult breed. It possesses the unfortunate combination of intelligence and a VERY strong stubborn streak.

This, as you might guess, is a very bad combination. A stupid but complaint dog might not learn much, but at least will work with you. A smart and compliant dog will be a joy to own and train. A smart dog with both intelligence and a very independent streak, one that has a stubborn and willful nature – this is a difficult dog to own and work with.

A dog of this breed can easily understand what you want it to do, and also decide whether or not it really wants to do what you want it to do. Often, it will decide it will do something other, anything other, than what you wish for it to do.

I seriously doubt you will have such trouble with certain gregarious breeds as a Labrador or Golden Retriever. There are many reasons why these two breeds have remained, for many years, two of America’s most popular breeds. It is in part because of their friendly nature, intelligence and agreeable disposition.

Is it no wonder that these dogs are generally the main two breeds used as seeing-eye dogs?

A Miniature Schnauzer, I sometimes think, in my darker imaginings. would happily lead a blind person into traffic or off a cliff, if it felt like it. Not that these dogs are evil, it is just that they have their own minds and do as they please, even if they are fairly well-trained. They, or at least my dog, is also very easily distractible.

I have a Miniature Schnauzer, and let me tell you, my dog Tucker is a daily challenge. It is true this breed makes for a very good watchdog.. an overly good one perhaps. Any stir of the branches of our Blue Spruce by the wind, perhaps any fluctuation in temperature, and good oi’ Tucker, our three year old Schnauzer will bark like he has lost his mind. A flurry of activity by our woodland denizens, the grey fox squirrel, commonly found in Boise, will send Tucker into a state of conniption.

This is especially fun for night people like myself, who need to sleep well into the morning, or even into early afternoon in order to get enough rest. The people who I live with are usually kind and attentive enough to leave the blinds closed until I awake, so that my slumber will not be disturbed by a frantically and ecstatically barking little dog.

He doesn’t need visual stimulation, though. Even with the shades drawn, he will bark at the slightest noise.

So why is this breed excellent for practicing Buddhists, and others who desire to gain mastery of themselves – who sincerely want to cultivate virtues not unique to Buddhism, such as compassion for oneself and others, patience, and acceptance?

The Miniature Schnauzer presents daily challenges that allow us to work on these difficult in order to cultivate virtues.

There are some Schnauzer owners who, Buddhist or not, possess a kind, and above all patient temperament that enables them to naturally have the fortitude to effectively train this breed. A few Schnauzer owners might even find such a process fairly easy, though I doubt it.

As for the rest of us, owning, caring for, and training a Miniature Schnauzer is no easy task. These dogs are very willful, stubborn, and difficult. It takes quite an effort, and a goodly amount of incentive training (using treats) even to get this little breed to even play fetch. Four retrievals of his his most beloved toy, and our little doggie has lost interest.

Getting this dog, should it have a perch near the front window, not to bark at a mail carrier, UPS driver, anyone who wanders into our cul-de-sac by mistake, an errant squirrel, or even a branch of a tree that has the audacity to move a few inches in any direction, whenever the slightest breeze blows, will be practically impossible.

I, as of yet, do not know how to train this nature to bark, out of a dog. Schnauzers, the only terrier breed not from England, have been bred to be watch dogs. But they are so overexcited that they will bark at noises or other stimulation no human can ever perceive.

Not only that, but they are difficult on walks, will often be ornery when their owners change walking routes, will initiate conflicts with other dogs, both large and small, even if those dogs are on a leash, and across a wide street, and will even lie down or put their paws over a leash if they are not happy about where they are lead.

They also, as far as I can tell, don’t seem to get along with other dogs, except that they somehow recognize other dogs of their breed. I have, eight times, taken my dog to a park specifically for small dogs. He has never had any difficulty with any dogs of his breed. But other dogs, yes.

In fact, other dogs don’t tend to like him. Four out of the eight time I have had Tucker to a park for small dogs, other dogs have singled him out. Only one little dog charging after him often leads a parade of other dogs in its wake.

Perhaps other dogs can sense that Schnauzers are difficult, and that is why Schnauzers are targeted. Perhaps not, maybe it is only my dog. I don’t know.

But this is a great dog for anyone who wants to take up the challenge of mastering his or her own emotions, before mastering a dog.

Perhaps, for most Schnauzer owners, working and living with this sort of dog is a lesson of acceptance more than anything else.

And certainly a lesson in patience.

Why do I bring up Buddhism? I forget which book I was reading years ago, I think it was more a book on writing than a book on Buddhism. But the author was a Buddhist. She was explaining how difficult the writing process was for her (something I can certainly understand, for my own writing process and practice is not easy) and her Buddhist instructor told her to, “let your writing be your practice.”

For those of you unfamiliar to Buddhism, let me say that being a practicing Buddhist is not easy. One must challenge oneself, for without challenge, without struggle, there can be no progress. I think this is true of life in general.

And Schnauzers certainly present lots of challenges. To be a responsible dog owner, regardless of what breed of canine one owns, is to be presented with many challenges. And to be a caring and responsible owner of a Schnauzer is to be presented with even more challenges than owners of many other breeds face.

Therefore, I think that for the serious practitioner of Buddhism, and any other person who is seriously devoted to developing his or her character, increased levels of tolerance, compassion, and patience, a Miniature Schnauzer is a perfect breed.

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