“What I told you was true, from a certain point of view. You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Return of the Jedi
Our perception of the things around us are limited to our senses and our ability to process the information our senses provide us. That information isn’t always accurate. A blur of movement in the night might be a mugger, or it might simply be a trick of light and wind. A brush against your arm could be little more than a shift of air or it could be a spider crawling on you. Our vision, which is our main sense, is fallible in so many ways. There are so many optical illusions and tricks our eyes can play on us that I am reminded of yet another Kenobi quote “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.”
Some recent studies have shown that there is a difference in reality and what we perceive to be reality. I’m not going to jump to deep into that here, but this article sums it up pretty well: https://www.npr.org/2019/02/18/695637906/theres-a-gap-between-perception-and-reality-when-it-comes-to-learning
If there is a disconnect for us, what about other creatures? In this particular case, dogs? What information are they taking in? What conclusions are they drawing from it? Is the information accurate or interpreted accurately?
They are so many questions I wish I had an answer for. For everything I feel like I know about dogs and their behavior, there are hundreds more that I wish I had an answer for. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m even asking the right questions.
So where does that leave us as owners? Our points of view effect how we interpret what our dogs are doing and, perhaps more importantly, why our dogs are doing what they are doing. One of the greatest risks we run is anthropomorphizing our dogs: attributing human motivations and emotions to them. This is unfair to our dogs. So often I hear the words “He knows that he is doing wrong” or “She only does it when she is mad at me.” This isn’t fair to our dogs, because we can’t confirm that, and all evidence points to the contrary. We are incorrectly forcing our point of view onto our dogs actions and in turn dealing with them in the wrong way.
So what should we do? Train the dog that’s in front of you. I know this is going to sound counter-intuitive but don’t dig to deeply into WHY your dog is doing what they are doing. We might not always be able to answer that question. I can’t always explain why your dog is frightened by something. But that isn’t important. What’s important is what your dog learns to do in the face of that fear, and how you train your dog to face it.
So what’s the lesson here? I guess the lesson is to stop letting your emotions cloud your judgement, and stop letting it guide your actions with your dog. Don’t let your point of view twist what is really happening. Stop focusing on the “why” and focus more on the “what now”.
Happy Tails Everyone!