The holidays are a time of reflection and hope. Reflection on the year that is almost over, our successes and our failures. What we learned and how we grew. Hope for the future, what we wish to achieve, whether on a grand scale to change the world, or a smaller scale to change our own lives and relationships for the better.
As my journey this year took a turn into the realm of dog training and behavior, I have discovered many parallels between dog behavior and human behavior. Dogs shut down when their communication repeatedly goes unheard. For example, a dog looks away when approached by a child wishing to pet it. The child doesn’t understand that the dog does not feel comfortable with this strange child’s approach. The dog snaps at the child to make it more clear – please do not pet me. The dog is reprimanded for defending itself. So next time a child approaches and the dog is not comfortable, the dog reacts aggressively with growling and barking. The reprimands become harsher, the dog becomes more reactive or shuts down in learned helplessness. Until one day it explodes and is labeled a bad dog.
Humans, although much more complex, are in many ways very similar to dogs. Speaking from a personal perspective, when my communications go unheard or are negated, I am accused of being wrong to feel what I feel. So I become angry and hurt. Why bother trying to communicate? It doesn’t matter. They do not wish to see things from my perspective or respect the reasons for my feelings. I am misunderstood, nobody is listening to what I am saying or cares about the underlying reasons behind my behavior. So I shut down and stuff my feelings – until I explode and am labeled as self-centered, self-righteous or any number of things. And maybe so. But so are they. We all are. It’s human nature. That’s why Jesus came to save us from ourselves.
What I hope 2018 will bring is a greater understanding of the underlying reasons for both dog behavior and human behavior so that we can learn how to communicate with each other and our dogs in ways that are respected rather than punished. It is my mission to do whatever I can to make that happen, both on a grand scale on behalf of misunderstood dogs to try to change their world, and on a smaller scale to improve relationships in my personal life. God help me.
Thanks Riley for letting me post for you today.
I love you – Merry Christmas!