It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, especially when we are living or working with another species, like our dogs.
The moment can be crazy good, and who wouldn’t want to be caught up in that? Sign me up right now! But transversely, the moment can be negative on some level, and I think this is where we show some of our true colors. What are we made of and how are we going to handle it?
Here is what my scale would look like for ‘how we (humans) deal with ‘the moment’. On one end there would be those of us that don’t react at all, blank, emotional range of a spoon. On the other end there would be those of us that react, explode, and then think about what just happened after the damage has occurred. Knee jerk both emotionally and physically. And in the middle of the scale, there would be those of us that are patient and thoughtful, the section of the scale that hopefully adds balance. Not necessarily Mother Teresa tolerant, just average Joe patience.
If you have ever raised a child/children, have raised a puppy, or lived with a dog outside of neutral, my guess is that you have experienced bits and pieces of yourself all over this scale. I think there are lots of factors that contribute to how we ‘deal’ with a situation; your baseline level of tolerance, your understanding of the situation, how well rested you are, your mood for that day, your health or lack there of, the environment, time of day, auditory tolerance, olfactory tolerance, and social pressure, etc.
So how can we try to stay some place in the middle of the scale? How do we teeter a bit, which would be living life, without tipping the scales to the extremes? I believe, and through my experiences, it is about looking beyond the behavior you are experiencing int he moment. It takes practice, but it does add more balance, more understanding, and less conflict over time.
For example – With our dogs it’s easy, really easy, to yell at them for barking, but the reality is, you are simply ‘barking’ along with them. And then the scale goes from balanced to heavily tipped in one direction that isn’t necessarily functional. And generally, the barking behavior becomes worse over time, and the human behavior becomes more tipped to knee jerk reaction over time, both emotionally and physically. When a dog barks, ask yourself, ‘why?’. Is something causing them concern, are they hungry, under exercised, over stimulated, scared, guarding, etc? Once you find the ’cause’ of the bark, you can adjust the environment, change what you are doing, add something your dog is needing, find your starting point! The bark is just a symptom, reacting to that does nothing, looking beyond the bark to the cause is the balance. Do you follow that?
The same goes for chasing, nipping, digging, chewing, etc. Choose a behavior. Look beyond these behaviors to what is causing them, driving them, that is your starting point, that is the place of understanding.
It takes patience, and good observational skills. On an ever tipping wobbly scale, it does take intention to try and maintain balance. Instability training at it’s best, you can only maintain balance with a clear and calm mind! When working with another species, or for that matter our own children, I believe it’s worth it.