If the past few weeks have taught us anything, it is that our nation as a whole could do with a lesson in reconciliation. I’m not going to dive into politics or current events here. Instead, I’m going to focus on that emotional divide between you and your dog when there is a problem.
Admittedly, I always struggle when it comes to emotions. I wasn’t raised in a family where emotions were really processed and understood. Growing up in the South, it was also considered taboo for men to discuss their emotions, and try to come to grips with them. I still struggle with my emotions, and that makes me human. We don’t know to what extent our dogs are burdened with emotions like this. It is my belief that while they do not hold grudges, but that doesn’t mean they forget about fear. Dogs are forgiving creatures, otherwise a dog wouldn’t return to the hand that beat it. But that fear can linger for a lifetime. We also have to accept our own emotional burden. I’ve had to comfort many owners who, realizing the mistakes they made, struggled to move beyond them out of guilt.
At some point, we have to admit and face our mistakes. I have never taken criticism well, very few people do. If we are to do better, however, we have to face our mistakes. Again, I’m not going to unpack some emotional baggage here. Instead, I’m going to encourage you, as an owner and advocate for your dog, to do some soul searching and see what emotions may be holding you back.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Obi-Wan comes to me…Okay, all joking aside, this isn’t the first time I’ve quoted Star Wars in this blog and it will not be the last. But there is some truth here. When we are working with our dogs, we have to keep things from clouding our judgement. The filters we unknowingly apply to every bit of information we take in is not easily set aside. Our dogs have filters, though not as complex as ours. The first big filter our dogs have are: Is this Safe or Unsafe? That is an important question. Once a bit of information passes through the Unsafe filter, it’s hard to change the dogs understanding of it. You shake a penny can when your dogs start barking at the door, and it startles your dogs. Now you simple reach for the can and they are cowering. To you, the can is harmless. To your dogs, it’s terrifying. They don’t really understand WHAT IT IS, but they do know WHAT IT DOES and how it makes them feel.
Clearing your mind is difficult, but necessary. When you are training with your dog, you need to shed your emotions and insecurities and focus on what you are working on at that moment. When you are crate training your dog, don’t think about your dog spending hours comfortably in the crate. Instead, focus on that first step towards the crate. Then the second. Then the third. Keep yourself present and focused on the task at hand, not the end of the journey.
Finally, forgive yourself…and your dog. I assure you, your dog is not doing anything out of spite, and you shouldn’t either. You should also remember that you will mistakes, but you will learn from your mistakes (hopefully) and won’t repeat them again. And if you need a pep talk, you’ve got my number.
Happy Tails everyone!