For many years I routinely had to take first aid and first responder courses because of the work I was doing. One of the instructions we were given in every course, and had to practice, if only to repeat out loud what we were to do was to ‘assess the situation’. One of the goals of this was not just to be able to assist someone who was sick or injured, but to make sure we didn’t become victims ourselves.
In some people the impulse to save or rush in to help is very strong, almost impossible to resist. A point in the training was that if we become victims ourselves we are no longer able to provide assistance to anyone, and may require someone else to come to our aid, potentially putting them at risk. Another point was that without an assessment of the situation our first aid might be less or un-successful.
We can learn where the best physical and emotional places are in order to provide the best care and treatment for someone else. Rushing into oncoming traffic is not a good idea even if someone else is stuck in the middle of the road. Panic, fear and depression are not the best emotional places to come from when specific action is going to be required of us. Consider yourself a valuable resource to be protected. Assess situations for their impact on your physical and emotional safety.
It is not callous or cold to be able to bear witness to someone or something else’s struggle, and not crumble in the face of it. Our fearful dogs are suffering. We can help them. Assess the situation. Stay safe. Help them feel safe. Respond to their immediate behavior and need. Plan and prepare for modifying their behavior in the future. Understand how your response to current behavior will impact behavior in the future.