The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil – Marcus Tullius Cicero
“OMG, what is that noise? A leaf? Is it going to kill us? No?
Should I run away? No?
What the heck was that!? A Car? Will that kill me? No?
WHAT ABOUT WHEN IT DRIVES OVER THE MANHOLE COVER?!?!? Let’s run!! No?
Okay, but those people talking 30 feet away from us are a threat right? No?
What about those dogs?? All a no?
Hey, have you checked behind us 20 times in the last 30 seconds? No? Well, I have. Nothing back there.
What’s that smell on the sidewalk? I’m going to keep my nose glued to it, okay? No? I should pay attention to the walk? Okay.
I’ll sit, but I need to face you so I can see the direction you aren’t looking to make sure we aren’t going to get killed”
**Some 4 letter words were left out of this message**
This is a text I received from my friend who has an anxious dog. This is what she perceived her dog’s inner monologue to be stating. The first thing I did was laugh really hard. The next thing I did was admire her for how much work she’s done with her dog. Even in her monologue she provided me, she showed when her pup was accepting her answer of no.
I’ve been on hikes with them together, and this particular Border Collie asks so many questions. Yet, this doesn’t stop by her owner from answering them. That’s the key, your dog has the right to ask as many questions and as many times as they need. Some dogs just need to be really really sure that the road up ahead is safe.
Here’s why I admire this owner:
1. She stays calm. Sure, she might use some choice words towards her dog, but she says it in a calm even toned voice and adds no energy to the situation. She treats walks as very matter of fact. They’re not exciting, they’re not life changing, they are just walks.
2. She doesn’t let these questions stop her from giving her dog the activity that she needs. Sure, maybe some days she’ll go on a shorter walk if she’s feeling extra frustrated, but she provides her dog the activity she needs no matter what. Maybe the day they go for a shorter walk they play Frisbee for a little longer. But, she doesn’t let her dog’s fearfulness get in the way of what her dog needs.
3. She doesn’t baby her. There’s no coddling. No cooing. Nothing is scary so she doesn’t act like it is. Moving on.
4. She answers every question. Hands down. She just keeps answering. It can be exhausting, but she does it. This is what her dog needs, so she will provide it.
5. She focuses on the victories, even the small ones. If she’s able to walk her dog past a car without having to answer a question, then she’s happy. If she’s able to not have a scared pup when a train rolls by a mile away then she’s ecstatic. She never expects perfection. Only improvement. We all could learn from that.
So for all of you who have fearful dogs out there, keep up the good work. It’s a long road and it can be bumpy at times, but your work will pay off. And don’t think it goes unnoticed.
Stay calm and answer their questions. And remember, get inventive and celebrate the little victories. You both deserve that.
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH