We have heard it so many times, “my dog hates men”, “my dog hates other dogs”, “they hate big, small, medium, dark, light” anything you can think of, we’ve heard it. While these concerns are valid, we have found that when the dog is away from their owner or having a new experience, they show significant growth in the areas they once struggled with. We have had dogs jump into the lap of a male staff member right after the hu“mom” said that her dog was fearful of men, we have had dogs who were known to be aggressive with other dogs, who once they were put in the pack got along and figured out that it was okay to just be a dog.
I thought that since I work with dogs and cats daily and understand this phenomenon that I was immune to it. Well, I was wrong. Even with my own dog this happened to me. Stella hates having her nails trimmed, HATES it. So, when I took her to the vet to have our wonderful groomer do it, I warned him, she hates this, she will scream, she will be a drama queen, and I am sorry in advance. Well, to my surprise, he came out with her 5 minutes later and informed me that she was fantastic. Apparently, I was the problem.
It’s crazy how our emotions, whether on the surface or hidden inside are picked up by our furry family members, even when we think we don’t show them. When we give our pets a chance to experience a situation without our emotional input (and output), there can be huge strides made in how they react and deal with stressors that used to trigger them. Recently we’ve had 2 dogs come on our pack walks that were deemed aggressive and unfriendly with other dogs. Once they joined us and learned the hierarchy and where they stood in the pack, their entire mental energy shifted. It was really quite beautiful and gratifying to watch and observe their transformations.
I encourage you to challenge yourself and your dog to experience new ideas and events and see the difference in their behavior. Sometimes a break from the routine is all they need to make the next stride in their development. You can give them those opportunities by taking them to new places, allowing them to join pack walks, or joining a dog class – whether it be obedience, therapy, agility, or so much more.
Our pets are able to make changes; it just takes us changing and shifting our own behaviors and attitudes to allow them to reach their full potential.