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Egos, Choices and Mirrors

Egos, Choices and Mirrors

‘Its just behavior’ she says!

Working with dogs for many years, I’ve experienced allot of behavior that I could have taken personally. From humping, lunging, nipping and outright jaws clamping on my arm to ignoring me completely. Through all of it, I’ve never taken offense to these behaviors because dog behavior is neutral to me; its just behavior.  My responsibility lies in how I choose to respond to the behavior.

First let me preface with this belief; Dogs:
*Don’t walk around plotting against humans and looking for ways to piss off humans
*Do what works for THEM
*Need their human to guide him/her benevolently in the human world 

So why do humans choose punishment over reinforcement and kindness when they interact and train? Why, if a dog is just a dog whose behavior is motivated by the innate sense to feel good (even when it doesn’t look like it), do we choose to cause pain and fear?  Yes, lunging, barking, biting is meant to create distance so the dog can feel safe.  Thats the purpose, the want.

Regardless of your experience or knowledge, how you choose to train/teach your dog is a choice.  If you choose to use punishment when you interact or use it to teach your dog, be it yelling, physical punishment, threat of punishment, emotional pressure, punitive equipment or something as subtle as a yank on the leash to stop unwanted behavior, it’s a choice that you make, not a choice you have to make.

It could be you’re angry, frustrated or emotionally hurt but whatever the motivation, in a small or large way, it emanates from your ego. It’s a symptom that your ego is playing a role in your reactions and in your behavior. Are you offended by your dog’s behavior? That’s your ego! And you don’t’ need a big ego to be offended!  If you are choosing punishment to get what you want at the expense of the dog then it’s your ego making those choices.

It may be what you’ve always known and done, or a trainer taught you or IS currently teaching you (find a positive reinforcement trainer!) or punishment is working so I’ll keep doing it.  Regardless of the excuse, your dog is paying the price of your choice!

The ‘mirror’ effect exposes what we are feeling

If punishment works and reinforcement works (with so many benefits), it stands to reason that how you choose to train your dog says something about you. And it’s through your reactions to their behavior, and the choices you make, you expose yourself.  This is where the ‘mirror’ effect comes into play.

Dogs have an unknowing ability to expose a little bit about who we are on the inside, whether you like it or not; whether you choose to see it or not.

Whether it’s the good or the not so good, dogs will expose your weaknesses or your strengths, your patience or lack thereof, anger and frustration issues, confidence or lack of it, self-importance issues or empathy and a myriad of other emotions and feelings.

Isn’t dog guardianship supposed to be pleasant and rewarding?

When you use punishment, you’ve gone to a negative mindset to apply the punishment thus you are experiencing more negativity. You’re looking for what’s not wanted instead of seeing all the good or wanted behaviors. You miss opportunities to reinforce and a missed opportunity may be a step backwards in training

When you choose to cause fear and pain you may stop behaivor and get what you want but there will be the destruction of trust from the dog, IN YOU?

Here’s the beauty of Dogs:

They’re ‘accidental’ teachers if you are willing to step back and receive the silent message; the message you can feel and know in yourself if you are brave enough to look for it.   Are you willing to ask?:

Why am I choosing to use punishment to teach my dog instead of reinforcement?
Is this the best I can do for this dog?
Can I do better?

Dogs are teachers. Their method of teaching  exposes us to ourselves. It’s a beautiful gift they give us but it requires 2 actions on our part; to be open and to be vulnerable and that is hard.  It’s a risk.
But it’s a good risk because it says we are open to change for the better. When you know better, you do better.

You can Thank your dog for that!


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