Hello and welcome to "Let's Have A Chat!"
If this is your first time listening, thank you for spending time with me today.
And, if you listen regularly… I am so glad to have you back.
Before I get into this episode's topic, I want to share how I decide on a topic every week.
One might think, and many people have suggested to me, that I would pick a few topics, write some notes, and then record a few episodes at a time to be efficient and get ahead of the game.
That doesn't work for me. And here is why. I get inspired by current events, meaning by animals that come into my life, and point out that they have something to share or teach that you need to know.
In this episode, I am inspired by a dog I haven't yet met.
Okay, let's get into it. A few days ago, a dear friend of mine adopted a puppy.
After losing her adult dog unexpectedly a few months ago, she was ready to bring some doggy love back into their life.
Together, we reviewed puppy pictures of potential candidates, and eventually, my friend decided on a yellow lab mix who is about 14 weeks old.
As the preparations for the arrival of the new pup began, various emotions came up for my friend. Let me list some:
:: Is this the right dog for me?
:: Will he be a barker?
:: Is he trainable?
:: Where do I find a good trainer?
:: The rescue said he has dew claws in the back, and they said he is part Pyrenees. Is he going to be too big?
:: Pyrenees are protective of their family. Will he stand in between me and others to protect me instead of being a welcoming dog to all?
Especially the last question occupied my friend's mind a lot. So much so that she was primarily focused on the fact that this dog was part Pyrenees and the consequences that would have on her life. At that point, I knew the topic for the next podcast had arrived.
When we are about to commit ourselves to bringing a new animal into our lives, we want as much information as we can get before we make the decision. And that is smart. Of course, it is.
We want to and should be prepared for the commitment we are making.
And then, once we decide, we best rest our weary minds and meet the new family member with an open + curious mind. Because that is the only way to set the dog up for success.
Be-cause … If my friend continues worrying that the dog might be too protective, she invites the exact concern into her life. Right? If she watches his every move to find evidence that he is protective, he will read her energy and concern about protection and feel he should be on guard and protect her. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If, instead, she forgets about the dew claw and instead focuses on his sweet puppy personality and socializes him on his property and out in the world, the dog might never show a sign of being a guard dog.
Our minds have a lot of power, and when we obsess about something, meaning specific thoughts cruise around and around in our brains, we can manifest the exact thing we're trying to avoid.
Since we're speaking about setting up a puppy, or really any animal, up for success, I have a few more ideas that can help you right from the start.
Often, the dog comes advertised as crate-trained. That happened to our dog Scout. The problem is that often, the pup spent time in the crate with his siblings. In my friend's case, the dog had lived with one of his sisters until they were separated on adoption day. When we put Scout into the crate by himself, assuming he was crate-trained, he panicked and chewed himself out of the crate because he felt lonely. Take all advertising with a grain of salt and make sure your pup is comfortable being alone for a little while before you leave the home.
Here is another crucial aspect … teaching your puppy what you want.
So often, we try to teach our animals what we don't want. Don't jump on the sofa, don't jump up on people, don't surf the counter, don't bark, don't, don't, don't …
As you will remember, don’t is not a word that translates into a picture. All your dog sees is dogs on sofas, dogs counter surfing, and dogs barking. I have talked about this before. Imagine you have a new job, and your boss tells you, don't sit on that chair, don't go down that hallway, don't touch that pencil. Sooner or later, you wonder … what the heck can I do?
If, instead, you acknowledge the things your puppy does right, you create a template of what you want. For example. Thank you for being quiet while I am on the phone. I love how you rest so perfectly on your bed. I love how you greet my mom so gently. Excellent job eating slowly. Thank you for alerting me that the UPS guy is here. All that we tell the dog verbally. Out loud because it will provide a picture of what we seek.
When you acknowledge what you like, you show what you want. And since animals just like us like praise, your animal will seek more opportunities to please you. When we praised Scout for carrying the feed buckets from the pasture to the house, he started to bring in firewood, often on his own. That's just how praise works.
Tell them what you want and like and see how the good behavior multiplies.
Okay, I have two more. I already touched on it a minute ago. Greeting.
Dogs jump up on people to get to the person's face. When you watch dogs greet each other, they often smell and lick the side of the head right below the ear. They sniff butts, too, but that is more about who are you? A greeting among friends is connecting cheek to cheek.
I realized when I greet dogs at their level, by squatting down, they sniff the side of my neck, some give a little lick, and that is that. No jumping, no drama. They simply want to say hello. And usually, I use my hand to touch the spot under their ear to reciprocate the greeting. If my knees don't play along with a squat or I carry too many things in my hands, I often lean down and offer my neck to Scout so he can do his little check-in. This gesture is so much more effective than ignoring your exuberant pup or turning away from your pup. Bend down and let him say hello. If you don't like being smooched, use your hands to keep the dog's head in a position where the licker doesn't reach your face but rather your hand.
Alright, one more tip before I sign off. Barking.
Barking is a purpose. And barking has a purpose. It is meant to alert the people.
When our dog barks and we say immediately stop it, we are not meeting the dog where he is.
When our dog barks and we say thank you, I see that the UPS guy is here; we acknowledge a job well done.
In my book Pet Logic, I have a cartoon that shows how vital acknowledgment is. Check it out in the show notes. It was inspired by me visiting a family with a barky dog. The person was annoyed with the constant alert, and as the day went on, the barking and the stop it, knock it off escalated. Watching the dog bark at everyone who walked by the house, I could see how proud he was to be on the job. The reprimand from the person didn't match him feeling so purposeful. And to convince his person of his efforts, he increased the noise by barking more and louder.
In a moment of insight, I told the dog, wow, you are such an excellent watchdog … and literally, in mid-bark, the dog turned his head around to look at me and then walked off to his bed in the living room. The person was stunned, and I knew I had tapped into something worth sharing.
If you teach your dog from the beginning that alerting his people is well appreciated, he will feel recognized for his efforts and use his skill intentionally.
Alright, my kindred spirits. That's today's puppy school. Be open + curious about the new family member. Tell him what you want and love. Bend down for a greeting and tell others to do the same and acknowledge the efforts, like barking or bringing in firewood, that are innate and purposeful to your dog.
I love hanging out with you. Until next time, bis bald and goodbye.