Since we’re out of town in a dog (mostly) unfriendly area of Florida and Koa had to stick around back in JB, I found a flock of pelicans early one morning who were fishing and hanging out, and it reminded me of something important to discuss. Why can’t animals emotionally live in the past? Because every single day they have to work towards life and living, eating, playing, socializing – all of the things that prolong life, not shorten it. It’s in their DNA, a requirement in their lives to move forward, not backward. Letting go is something that many humans (me, included) find difficult to do. Letting go of the bad, scary, and horrible experiences that we have gone through. Sometimes humans even do this with their dogs’ lives – emotionally remember and relive the bad, horrible things they may have gone through. What humans forget is that it’s not healthy for us to hang on to our own past, and it is really unhealthy to hang on to what we think is our dogs’ past. Why? Because it makes us weak, in our dogs’ eyes, and that creates behavior problems because now the dog believes that it needs to protect the human. Not some of the time. All of the time.
Without exception, every dog I’ve worked with has an owner that will tell his/her back story as a reason for whatever the unwanted behavior might be. These very loving dog owners are inadvertently creating the behavior they don’t want by their energy they possess based on the story. While I am honored to work alongside these incredible dog lovers, I also know that listening to the story for the dog’s sake is exactly the wrong thing for me to do when I get to meet the dog. I listen to help the human get past the past. Most dogs will tell a different story from a different perspective than their owners, and have a different set of goals than the human might want/believe.
So why does it look like “magic” when I correct unwanted behavior and get the desired response, or when I don’t get a chance to even see the unwanted behavior without the owner present? Because I don’t share that past with the dog, I’m sharing what we are doing right then – playing, walking, hanging out. Then we get back with the owners so that I can see the behavior change; and then the dog tells me what the problem is. The humans have forgotten to “let go” of what keeps them, and their dogs, from excelling.
Coaching people is what I have done for a long career – not sports, exactly, but behavior coaching which has a direct correlation to outstanding performance. It’s just that dogs will show your progress with them light years faster than a human experience ever will.
Until next time, stay calm and let go!