When I was first establishing my LLC, I tried hard to find a meaningful name. I spent weeks looking for the perfect business title with a meaningful underlying message. My husband suggested “The Dog Mechanic.” Uh. What?
“The dog mechanic. You know, like a car mechanic? You take your car in to get it fixed when it has a check engine light or something is broken. The dog mechanic!”
On the surface, it seemed suitable. I do, after all, address problem behaviors:
- Barking and lunging at other dogs on leash
- Lunging, barking and snapping at people on leash
- Dogs barking, lunging and snapping at family members at home
- Exhibiting aggression to strangers when they come near or into the home
Folks, all of these “problems” aren’t actually problems – they’re inconveniences. They’re inconvenient for you while you’re out walking or having friends over; and it’s almost certainly inconvenient from the dog’s point of view to have to feel threatened every time he encounters something scary (which may be often if you’re particularly athletic and do a lot of walking, or very social and have friends over a lot!)
All the above scenarios, every single situation, all of it boils down to two things: fear, anxiety and lack of socialization. Wait, that’s three things. OK, three things. But really, if we think a little bit more about it, isn’t anxiety a manifestation of fear? So really there’s two. Now stop doubting my accounting abilities and let’s get back to your dog.
HOW DO I FIX THIS?
As I thought more and more about it, I realized what my problem was with the name my husband came up with. I am not a mechanic. I don’t fix dogs. To be quite frank, I *CAN’T* fix your dog.
Because he’s not broken.
Let me repeat that: YOUR DOG IS NOT BROKEN.
Imagine this: a very close friend is calling you while being followed by a stranger. The stranger is way too close for her comfort. She’s done everything to put space between them but he will not back off. Now your friend has the pepper spray out and she’s talking to you on the phone – VERY loudly so the guy can hear she’s talking to someone.
Like your friend on the phone, your dogs are calling for help – yelling for it, actually – and every time you ignore the cries, their behavior escalates and becomes more significant. You can solve each of these problems with training and exactly none of them mean that your dog is broken.
So listen to what your dog is telling you. Learn to understand what they’re saying with their bodies. Please don’t aspire to be a dog whisperer – be a dog listener!