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By Published On: April 5th, 2010

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

black dogOne of the most important things I think we can do with our dogs is attend to them. Our shy dogs who, without words to tell us what they are feeling and what their next move might be, are showing us with every blink, turn of the head or lowering of their tail.

A woman contacted me recently who had reclaimed a fearful dog she had fostered. Although she had been willing to keep the dog, the rescue group felt it was best that he go to someone with 20 years of experience training dogs. Despite those years of experience, the dog was returned to the rescue group, the fur beneath his collar rubbed off from leash corrections (e-collar??) and with new aggression issues toward strangers. Since we have the brain to do it, let’s just imagine what it was like for this dog who trembling, went from shelter to rescue then foster care to a new home where abuse masqueraded as training.

I will assume that the woman who adopted the dog had the best of intentions, she was going to ‘fix’ a scared hound dog. Yet I can’t help but wonder why at some point when leash corrections were not working, she did not come to the conclusion that the problem was in her technique, not in the dog’s ability to change. Obviously the dog could change, his behavior got worse.

The dog has returned to a sanctuary where, despite a lack of years of experience training dogs, his newest owner knew that he could not be bullied out of his fear. I often think that the most important thing we have when it comes to working with fearful dogs is our humanity and our ability to see suffering for what it is.

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