Suffering from doggie guilt? Here’s how to LOOSE it!
I am one of those people who wondered if everything I have done to this point has led to my dogs ‘behavioural quirks’.
I like to call them that, not issues, or problems, as they are only really a problem to me, he’s actually behaving in a perfectly reasonable way. A way that makes him feel better, because he’s scared.
Buddy is only 9 months old, but I still feel there is a lot I could have done differently when we first got him.
He was clearly an anxious puppy from day one. He belly crawled over to us to say hi on our first meeting, but he happily ran around the garden with a watering can, so although I could see there were some nerves there, he still appeared fairly confident.
He cried the whole way home in the car scrabbling around.
He was petrified of cars from day one, nearly scratching my face to pieces as I ‘socialised’ him in my arms down the road, trying to expose him to my ‘tick-list’ of things.
He was difficult in puppy class, barking constantly, which is when the barking started. Something I should have addressed a lot earlier and instigated more interrupters. Barking spreads like fire into all aspects as I’ve been taught in the training academy!
If I had taken it slower, not exposed him so much, would he have turned out differently?
The trouble is, we will NEVER know the answer, so its pretty pointless dwelling on it. Do not allow that guilt to flood you when there is NOTHING you can do about it now! So yeah, maybe it would have made things easier, but we are where we are – what can we do about it NOW?!
You have to accept that you are also human. And that by default, means you MAKE MISTAKES!
You get down, frustrated, you might have yelled at your dog. Hands up I totally have! Barking is one of those behaviours that drains the life and soul out of you. It’s a bit like a baby crying. If you have kids, you’ll know what I mean!
I also have to accept he is a puppy still. A big one! But he’s a puppy/adolescent and we have a LONG way to go before the hormones calm down and things start clicking a bit more.
For me, I have to deep dive into everything. I have to get answers and get to the bottom of it.
After much studying with my dog trainer, I have learnt a LOT about how stress works in a dog’s brain and body. How dogs perceive things and which systems are at play. Also how sensitive the functions are that process things, vary greatly from dog to dog. This is SET when they are born. Other influences can play a part such as early stress and HOW those systems develop, but a dog is born a pessimist, or an optimist, on a sliding scale. Just like humans right?
But whether your dog is a bouncing optimist who loves the world, or a pessimist, who is very scared of the world, their perception IS changeable, for the good or bad. I can see it changing for the good, very slowly, first hand with Buddy so I know it works.
There isn’t one quick fix. If there was, someone would be very rich by now! Don’t believe these quick fixes you see on reality TV with these ‘famous’ behaviourists. They show some worrying practices to ‘nip’ behaviours in the bud. I can only imagine that the problem will just come out in another behaviour elsewhere, and that by solving one problem they just create another. They don’t get to the root of it. (that wouldn’t make for good TV either as it wouldn’t fit in one episode!)
The only way to change a dog’s perception is through changing different concepts in their brain. This gets to the root of their quirks rather than through some quick fix that might work for a bit. How quickly this works varies from dog to dog.
It also means THEY end up making the right choice, without being nagged at by us!
So in summary:
- Loose the guilt – it will get you NOWHERE FAST and is an optimism vacuum
- Ditch the label – your dog has reactions that are perfectly reasonable to them
- There are no quick fixes – don’t believe the hype you see on TV
- Train by strengthening concepts like optimism and confidence
- If your dog is already an optimist, then guard that optimism. Don’t take it for granted as concepts CAN change both ways – especially if you start to see a small change in something that didn’t bother them before
If you are looking for some confidence games then check out my post ‘Fun stuff to do in lockdown with your dog’