I make no pretenses about it, I am obsessed with my fearful dog Sunny. Not only do I think about him, I am always looking for ways to help him, and other scared dogs. Leafing through an old issue of Newsweek I read a quote attributed to Tibet’s Karmapa Lama and of course, thought of scared dogs.
“For any living being, when you feel the force of being cornered time and again, more and more, the time comes when you have nothing else left except to explode.”
He is not speaking directly about dogs, but of the Tibetan people, yet sadly for both humans and dogs, too often when we protest about our situation we are either ignored or punished. In either case we may feel compelled to escalate our response.
Pay attention to how dogs are treated when they attempt to make their feeling known, often they are reprimanded, “Bad dog!”, No!”. Their intentions are misinterpreted, instead of people understanding, “Please leave me alone!” they are told by some trainers that their dog is trying to be dominant or challenging them. Punish a dog that has asked, in one of the few ways that dogs can, ‘leave me alone’ and you can end up with a dog that may become even more frightened. Punish a behavior and you may stop that behavior, but you don’t necessarily stop the emotion that causes that behavior. Prevent a dog from communicating with a growl and they may resort to a bite.
Wouldn’t it be great if those people who considered themselves the leader of the pack, whether it was a pack of dogs or a country, were willing to hear what those they were controlling were asking for? What most of us want is just to be able to live our lives free from fear and oppression. Don’t put your dog in situations in which it feels the need to growl or protect itself and you are on your way to not only changing how your dog feels but you are also preventing your dog from practicing a behavior you also want to change.