As your owner, I promise to learn about you…
As I begin this blog on January 1st, my mind keeps taking me to the concept of new beginnings. A fresh start can, however, begin any day of the year at any hour that you choose. My wish is that this is the hour, the day, the year that we truly slow down and strive to understand and appreciate our dogs. There is so much to be learned from them and about them! We fail miserably to comprehend how intuitive and amazingly brilliant they are. I do not confuse them with humans, but do believe that they are such a gift to us in our life’s journey. We humans are so distracted by our current thoughts. We ruminate over the past and worry about the future. We seldom focus on the present moment and thus miss half of life. Dogs, on the other hand, have learned from the past and have imprinting but do not fret. I have never been convinced that they are concerned about the future either. Since they have never experienced it, how could an animal even think in future tense. Perhaps they just know it’s not worth worrying about!
As your owner, I will marvel at you instead of blame you…
Dogs possess senses that are so much sharper than ours. We hear stories about them performing unbelievable feats like walking back home many, many miles after being swept away by a hurricane or tornado. After having worked with service dogs this past year for veterans suffering with PTSD, I have been amazed at how they intuitively sense a chemical imbalance or a seizure prior to the onset. Of course we train for these skills, but in real life situations the dog often beats the human to the initial realization.
I now find myself checking the environment or potential situation before I jump to the conclusion that any dog is stubborn or unwilling to obey. I observe more and constantly ask myself what I might be doing wrong. Perhaps I have given a dog a cue to hold a stay in a place that doesn’t feel safe, or more common… maybe my signal to the dog was sloppy or hurried. Yes! Sometimes I wonder who is training who!!!
A few days ago I got a call from a client that I had not spoken to since training her dog 6 or more years ago. She explained that he was such a good house dog that they didn’t use a crate any longer, but had given him his own room which doubled as the owner’s office. Whenever they left the house they put him in that room where he laid around not bothering a thing. Exactly a month ago he suddenly began not wanting to go in the office. When they thought he was being stubborn, they at times would drag him in there and shut the door. He proceeded to destroy the furniture and bang his head against the french doors. They perceived that he had turned into a devil dog overnight for some unknown reason because his general behavior was affected as well and they were not sure how to “fix” him. They even had him checked out thoroughly by the vet. My theory was that something happened in that room and we started going down the list of potential causes. Along with dozens of possible reasons like a dead critter under the house, I mentioned electrical current. It occurred to her that exactly one month ago they had hung Christmas lights on the outside of the house that were visible from the inside. I can’t wait to hear if the issue got better after they removed the lights!
As your owner, I will let you teach me about love and forgiveness…
I have worked with dogs most of my life and I can tell you that everyday they teach me more patience and increase my humility. I’m learning to more effectively watch and “listen” as time goes on… I know how unfair it is that we concoct lists of our dogs’ “bad habits” like it is a checklist of needed repairs at the car mechanic’s shop! I wonder… how is it that our dogs have tolerated our ignorance as they loved us unconditionally. Sadly, most dogs have lived out their lives and never gotten an apology.
Here are some sobering facts:
- It is never the dog’s fault. It is always human error.
- Dogs do not make moral judgements.
- Dogs do not retaliate, become angry, or try to get even.
- If they do something “inappropriate” it is because they have been taught, usually by us.
From here on out, let’s try to evaluate any problems with our dogs by first putting ourselves into their heads while taking into consideration breed, age, history, and past experiences which may include degrees of neglect or abuse inflicted by none other than ourselves. Do not judge your dog by your personal set of desired criteria as that has nothing to do with why a dog behaves the way he does. It’s not about us, it’s about the dog. Let’s vow to be patient. It will make us better to humans while we are at it. If we slip up occasionally, our faithful friend won’t say a word or hold a grudge.
If enriching your life and becoming more compassionate are on your list of New Year’s resolutions, begin by getting to know your dog! Please join me in wishing a Happy New Year to our dogs!