Blog post by Emily Jacobs, SDT Admin
Haven’t you ever come to the end of a particularly tough day to wonder, why me? Why did everything seem so wrong, and so difficult? Further, have you ever caught yourself and thought, “well, plenty of good things did happen…?” It seems obvious that negativity in human daily life can be toxic. One tough break at work can color your whole day, and one critique from a friend might put you in a funk for a while. However, I think it’s easy to forget that most negativity is contagious for our pooches too. Our demeanor and the emotional environment we create for our dogs can be an important factor in the success of our relationship.
Back to humans: our mood often directly affects our perception of other people’s personalities. I know that when I am in a bad mood, my first impressions of people tend to feature more judgements than when I’m feeling well-rested and happy. Isn’t it true that our dogs’ behavioral “sticking-points” nag at us more when we are underslept, underfed, or feeling unloved? When they bark at the fenceline, if we are feeling negative, won’t we feel more inclined to bark back?
It can certainly be said that our dogs aren’t holding grudges. I know that when I accidentally step on Dally’s toe, I apologize to her profusely in a language she doesn’t understand, but it’s just to placate my own guilt. She can’t understand me, and she has already forgiven! How peaceful it would be, in the human world, if we were able to allow the mis-steps of others to roll off our backs in a similar way. Further might we have more emotional bandwidth to approach our dogs without judgement, if we have spent our day forgiving rather than begrudging?
We might foster more productive relationships with our dogs if we extended to them a portion of the courtesy they extend to us. We always have the benefit of the doubt, in our dogs’ minds. They might be pretty color-blind, but they seem to see the world through rose-colored lenses. Perhaps we could wake each morning and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, then put on our own rose lenses and see others that way too. Finally, we might be able to see our dogs more clearly, without the fog of stress and frustration that obscures so much of our sight.
It’s evident that our own self-care (medical, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc…) can have an effect on how we perceive our dogs’ actions. The redirection a begging dog receives should be consistent and loving each instance, no matter how hot it was today, or how long the line was at the grocery store, or how much your feet hurt from walking. It is worth saying that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves when we are owners, because the needs of a pet can’t be met with just money, kibble, and exercise. We are responsible for meeting our dogs more than halfway in emotional engagement. To have the most fruitful relationship, it’s important for both parties to be heard, well-fed, well-rested, and well-loved.