I praise loudly. I blame softly.
- Catherine the Great
I hate blame. Especially when it comes to dogs and humans trying to co-exist. Let me tell you a little story that highlights why.
I recently acquired to adorable watches. One is a vintage Timex from the 50′s, the other is a Lady Hamilton that’s just a bit older. Neither one was working, and I was hoping the problem was that they each needed a new battery. So I went to a local jeweler and explained the problem to the gentleman who worked there (and looked all of 19 years old). He then disappeared in back with both of my watches, returning only moments later with good news.
“It looks like the Lady Hamilton does indeed need a new battery, so we put one in and it’s good to go.”
He then continued, “The Timex doesn’t take a battery. It’s a wind-up watch. It, uh, just needed to be wound-up.”
He actually managed to get this out without any trace of sarcasm, condescension nor laughter. I felt like an idiot already, and I truly appreciated his not adding to my embarrassment.
I personally have never owned a wind-up watch. I have a general idea of how watches work: you look at them, take them off when showering and doing dishes, and if it stops working, you got to the jeweler to hopefully get a new battery. Well, now I know more. Ignorance is a very acceptable excuse in my opinion. Determination to stay ignorant isn’t.
If I take another wind-up watch to the same jeweler and ask them to put a battery in it to fix it, I’m now a moron. I deserve blame for not knowing better, because I have learned better. The same goes for dogs.
For some reason, people constantly try to blame themselves for their dog’s behavior. I hear a lot of “I tried to do such and such to fix it, but it didn’t work”, and my personal favorite, “I know I did everything wrong”.
First, kudos to you for trying. Seriously. You may not know what to do, but you gave it a good effort and a lot of Google searches. It didn’t work (and maybe it did make things worse), so you called me to help. I’d call every step of that a success. Sometimes learning what not to do is just as important as learning what to do.
My mother has a saying:
“You’re really going to wear that?
If you keep doing the same thing, and you keep getting the same result, try something different.”
Combine that with my favorite Maya Angelou quote:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I apply Angelou’s quote to every aspect of my life, including when I’m working with dogs. The methods I use now are a little different than what they were when I first started training dogs all this years ago – a tweak here, a different word there. That’s because along the way, I learned a little bit more. I suspect that in another 20 years, my methods will look slightly different than they do now, too. And I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So stop being hard on yourself. Yes, maybe you did end up having to call someone out to help with your dog, but now you know better. And now you’ll do better.