It’s been a while since my last post and it really is because I have been superbly busy helping clients with their humans. And while thinking about what would be the next subject, it occurred to me that every morning I go to the dog park with Koa & Malu there is a subject staring me in the face each time. Now, most of the group we see every morning is calm, balanced and centered (the humans, that is… the dogs always are!). But every so often a new human group, or one of the regulars that hasn’t come for a while, walks into the dog park and they are not centered with Mother Nature – they walk in carrying their own insecurities, emotions, and feelings and start to place that on dog behavior.
None of the examples I am about to give is any one person or dog but if you see yourself in this, then perhaps we can get you calmer. To start, every dog has 2 major things in their lives all the time and they are Purpose and Social. Today, one of the dogs hunted and caught a mole from underground, and that particular dog’s instinctual purpose is to hunt. Other dog’s purpose, at that time, was to be social and to play. This is where humans get dicey about what is appropriate and what is “aggression”. Simply because your dog shows teeth, growls, barks, bites at another dog does not make that aggressive. You know when kids play and roughhouse and scream and run and wrestle? Is that aggressive? Of course not! But there is another level when it gets to be too much, and the pack leaders’ rules always go.
But what if the pack leader gets emotional (yelling, screaming, trying to “shoo” away another dog with instability)? Dogs do not listen to instability as a correction and often take on that excitement as their own behavior. Do you yell at your dog when they are excited? How’s that generally work for you? (That’s rhetorical, because that’s when people call me to help them “teach” the dog to behave.) Calm, assertive, confident behavior and enforcement of common sense rules is a key to canine leadership.
“But,” you say, “what if the dog has been attacked before and now he/she looks like they’re afraid?” Unsure/uncertain and Fear are two entirely different things. Dogs, to give them a social purpose, need leadership not micromanagement (micromanagement is instability even in human world). What is the truth in what you see versus what is the story that is being invented? Often, people invent the most far-fetched, wide ranging stories you could ever imagine and many of them go on for minutes on end (kind of like when you are making up a story to sound completely ridiculous because you want to make fun of something). “Story” is our attempt to put a feeling into play that we can understand from OUR past, but it is not the truth.
Look at the picture accompanying this post. That is Malu and his buddy Beau doing what they do almost every time they’re together at the park. When Beau is finished being rolled around in the dirt he gets up and chases Malu and Malu runs. It’s their game. Does look and sound bad? That depends on your perspective. Beau’s owner’s legs are in the picture… we watch for 2 reasons: it gives us joy to watch them do their thing, and we can stop it if one or the other gets too much. How does it get stopped? We walk through the middle of them and continue to walk – the migration continues. What happens if you throw gas on a fire to douse it? That’s what happens when you bring more energy and excitement to a situation that already has too much… and then what you did isn’t working, then you get frustrated and angry or scared or anxious, the dogs REALLY aren’t paying attention to you and they run off continuing to play but you’re still emotional.
Be more like a dog: they live in the moment, not the past. “What are we doing now?” is how they view their world. If we could get to the spot where we are more like that when it’s appropriate, the entire world would be a better place. Or, at least the pack that YOU live in would be better off! Until the next time, stay calm and look at your dog from a different – and less emotional – point of view.