I go out walkin’ after midnight
Out in the moonlight, just like we used to do – Patsy Cline
If you haven’t been able to tell in all the years I’ve written this blog, I’m a huuuuuuuge geek. My posts are riddled with geeky memes. Danika brings it up sometimes (we upload images, etc. to a shared source, so it all gets pooled together). The other day I was browsing through the images we’ve used in our posts. Here’s some of Danika’s recent images she’s used for her articles:
Yeah. For some reason Danika’s posts contain pics of dogs. I don’t get it. I do it a little differently:
So, what does this have to do with anything dog related? Everything. It’s easy for me to understand dogs, because I realize it’s not about training them. Not really. As Edward Hoagland stated, “In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” It’s more about working with your dog to build a relationship, Piloting them so they can live comfortably live in a human world.
When clients call me to their house, they are at their wits’ end. They’re frustrated with certain behaviors they don’t understand. My job is to try to build a bridge between dogs and humans, and to do that, I need to help humans understand exactly what’s going through a dog’s mind when they exhibit behaviors x, y & z. Once they can empathize with their dog, it’s so much easier for them to build that bridge, and meet their dog in the middle. Pop culture helps me build that bridge. For instance, the concept of Piloting isn’t too difficult (I’ve been doing it since I first found a stray dog while in grade school). However, the terminology? How to explain it to people? I have this man to thank:
Yes, I can quote the movie word for word. And sometimes still do! But aside from being one of my favorite movies, it had the easiest analogy for how your dog feels without guidance in a world they understand. ”Nobody’s flying the plane!” And when I would bring this analogy up to my clients, it finally clicked for them. Hence the term “Piloting” was born.
So, after that lengthy introduction, I’ll bet you’re wondering what this post is actually about. It’s about all you night crawlers out there, as I like to call you. Those of you who have dog-reactive dogs, and therefore are out there crawling around after midnight, hoping you don’t encounter another dog. Don’t worry, no judgment from me – I’ve been known to do it, too.
Earlier this week I wrote a post about Progression, and how it’s never about perfection, it’s about working towards a goal. That’s progress, and that’s a great thing! That’s what works. Perfection, on the other hand, is something that can only be found in our imaginations.
So, back to us night crawlers.
When I was first dealing with Sparta’s dog-reactivity, I had to constantly keep in mind the three most important concepts when Piloting a dog:
1) Control myself (no freaking out, shouting, etc., and calm body language).
2) Control the situation. In other words, if I didn’t have control of Sparta, I wasn’t going to take another step towards that other dog who was freaking her out. Don’t add stimulation to a situation if you don’t have control of the situation. Take your time.
3) Answer questions. If Sparta was super-focused on something, odds are she was asking a question, and that question must be answered.
The hard part about all of this was Step 2: Control the situation. I mean, I live in a place that is crawling with dogs all the time. People always have their dogs out for a walk. I was still working on her behavior, so I very well couldn’t just throw her into the deep end of the pool with a “sink or swim” mentality.
That’s how we became night-crawlers. We
perfected worked on Piloting during walks first, and got leash-walking under control when there were no dogs present. Once we had that accomplished, we were able to start adding dogs. That meant for the longest time, our walks took place at 11:00 at night.
Gradually, we started to switch out our times earlier and earlier, encountering one dog when we’d start at 10:30, and then perhaps two other dogs when we’d start at 10:15….getting the picture? Rather than subject both of us to the stress of the usual 150 dogs out for a walk at 6pm, we were able to control our environment to fit our progress. To this day, I still prefer walking Sparta at night. Somehow it feels like “our time”.
So, back to being a geek.
I couldn’t come up with a title for this blog post. So I decided to catch up on some Supernatural episodes. Fortunately, Sam, Dean, and Baby came through for me with a title. Thanks guys.