I don’t know what it is lately… Maybe it is something to do with the pandemic and all the associated stress, but recently I have met a lot of pet owners who are really struggling.
I don’t know how much of a thing this is generally, but I am definitely coming across a growing number of people who are concerned about whether what they are doing is the right thing, or that what they are doing may be completely wrong, or if others will think that what they are doing is wrong or outdated, or even if their pets will ‘show them up.’ I have come across so many examples, it has become enough of a salient feature for me to write this post!
I think there has been something of a shift over the last 18 months generally. Perhaps we’ve had more time to self-reflect, to inwardly look at what we’re doing or not doing, challenge certain aspects of our lives, our relationships with certain people, our pets, maybe look at our attitudes, ways of doing things etc.
This in itself is obviously not bad thing, and in ‘ordinary’ times we might not have the opportunity to do this. The pandemic has also had this strange effect, because we’ve been forcibly kept away from other people in many cases (I’m writing this here in the UK), robbing us of that sense of being social. I think in many cases that’s created a strange feeling of anxiety now we’re able to have some of our freedoms back again. It’s like we’ve almost forgotten how to interact and we’ve become a little more sensitive to others, maybe even a little hyper critical and intolerant.
I certainly hear from my clients more issues around complaints about this and that, arguments they have become embroiled in because their dog had done something someone else didn’t like, or even more commonly, public humiliation on social media because something has happened (or not happened) and/or they have failed to do something (or not do something) with their dog.
It seems to me there is a much more negative vibe over the last 18 months or so. Certainly dogs have also struggled with the effects of the pandemic and I, like many others, am seeing a great increase in calls for help as a result. I think we all just need to try to be a little more tolerant and understand that many of us are struggling at this time.
I read lots of content online, such as comments and posts from dog owners who are battling with behavior issues, and of course I also hear many daily stories from my own clients.
Behavior issues can be incredibly stressful for clients, as well as the dogs! So I really want to use this opportunity to say that once you’ve found the right professional help and you’re on the right track, you’re already on the pathway to the finish. All you have to do is keep following it to the end.
Dealing with behavior issues can be tough and it can help if you have positive emotional support, especially in difficult cases. But you will get there with the right person.
It doesn’t help to receive comments from bystanders that their dogs have ‘never done that’ or the multiple, inexpert comments telling you you should tackle the problem like this or like that.
Once you have your chosen dog professional, stick to their plan and their plan only. It will be devised specifically for your dog and this is the key.
Know that sometimes when you practice, things will go wrong. Things won’t go to plan, your dog might not respond as you expected. It’s okay!
If people are watching, stay calm, gather your thoughts and just walk on by. Focus on the positives, get home, analyze what happened and why, and move on. Dogs are not robots. They are living, breathing, sentient beings and they will react to a situation accordingly. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed, there’s no need. Stay focused and keep working on helping your dog, based on the behavior change plan provided by your chosen professional.
Every small step you take is a win and that is what you are aiming for, just one more little win each time. Confidence is difficult to gain but very easy to knock back down again, so give yourself time. Even if you think that your whole training session has been a downer, I bet there’s one small thing you can pick up on that has gone well. Grab that positive with both hands, focus on it big time, and start with it again tomorrow.