Oh Mr. Postmaaan…

one day the mailman is going to

 

Our U.P.S. delivery dude is pretty hot.

He’s also a total sweetheart.  Our mail person is adorable as well.  She sings songs so loudly from her postal vehicle I can hear her from inside my house.  It always makes me giggle and smile.  

But what I think of our postal and package delivery people doesn’t matter; what does matter is what our dog thinks of them.

Now that the holidays are here, I am unbelievably grateful that our dog adores the Dudes and Dudettes Who Bring the Boxes.  In fact, our dog thinks the UPS people and their big brown sleigh are hawt-doggity-dawg.

But she didn’t always love them.

In fact, she used to go absolutely insane when the postal people came; you would have thought our house was being invaded by a SWAT team every time the truck pulled up to our house, or when he came to the door.

dogs barking at post man
Is this how your dog sees the delivery people?

 

Let’s Get A New Perspective:

Imagine what it must feel like to your canine companion:  You are resting comfortably on your cushion in your canine castle. Then all of a sudden a loud, intrusive rumbling sound comes racing down your street.

Rumble! Bang! Boom!  Metal clangs and rattles.  Door slams.

You leap up from the comfort of your canine bed, wide-eyed and wildly wondering: 

Is that thunder!??  

Take Cover!!!  HIDE!!
No.  Wait.  It’s just a car.

Now the doors are slamming!!  OMG! Someone is here!!!

I will alert my people with my canine call!!!

They will be so glad I told them!

WAIT. Do I know this person?!!?

NO!  Agh!  It’s a stranger!!

DANGER! 
All canines on deck!!! 
Oh noooo! He is getting out of his monster machine and coming up to our house!!! — MY CASTLE!

Must defend my canine castle!!!

Must alert my people more loudly!  They don’t understand the danger!

Knock-Knock. Doorbell rings.

AGH!!! The Chimes of Doom!   

People …. HELP!!!!!
Now he’s banging on the door!!!  He’s coming in! OMG! I must defend my canine castle!!!

All life forms in your home fearfully flee the scene, or they do the opposite: They physically go after your invisibly-caped canine crusader to make her shut-the-heck-up and calm-the-heck-down.


 

Does this sound familiar?  As chaotic as that scene sounds, it’s all too common in family homes, but it can and should be prevented. 

We prevent this by removing fear. 

Think about it: Everyone’s response in that moment was based on fear. If you have a cat or dog that flees (or fights) the dog when she goes nuts, it’s a behavior that stems from fear.  The other animal is either trying to keep themselves safe from the threat, or he/she is trying to eliminate the threat.   If you go after or scream at your dog when he/she is screaming at the perceived threat, you are experiencing anger (which is actually just a mask for fear).  And, anyone or animal that goes after the dog when the dog is in the middle of a full-on-freak-out, that animal or person is only adding more fear and frustration to the already out of control fire.

Let me repeat that:  If you are reactive to your reactive dog, you are adding fear-fuel to the fear-fire. 

Hollering and forcing a dog into a position to make them “behave” isn’t going to help.  This approach can backfire. It’s very dangerous and honestly, very irresponsible.  And it’s only teaching your dog (and any other animal or child in the house) that there is something to be afraid of when the “stranger-danger” appears.  If you are reacting angrily when your dog reacts, what are you teaching them?


 

The flawed idea that a dog will only learn to behave through force and fear is sad and misguided, but people are still misled into thinking that these methods are the right way to go. This leads to elevated stress levels that could be avoided if time was taken to understand how dogs’ learn and how they can be taught effectively. Choice training is a beacon of hope in what is still a dominating world. -Victoria Stilwell, world-renowned humane dog trainer


 

So, what do we do instead of screaming “SHUT UP!” or wrestling the dog away from the door or window?

–> We teach the dog that the approaching monster man in his monster machine is A MA Z I N G, and something to look forward to! 


Here are a few (very simplified) steps to get you started:

1.Form a friendly relationship with your postal service people. These people have a very exhausting job this time of year, so go out of your way to have some compassion for them.  Find out their names.  Ask them how their day is going.  Maybe even ask how their family is doing.  Care about them, instead of seeing them as the people who drop off the-item-you-have-been-waiting-for-forever.  Not only is doing this a kind gesture, but it will pay off tremendously when you ask for their help with calming your chaotic canine!

 

2. Explain to your postal person that your dog is having a hard time with him/her coming to your house.  Just take a few minutes to let them know that you are working on helping your dog to be more calm around them. They might appreciate that you are making their life easier! They may even have some suggestions or offer ways to help you.

 

3. Ask them how they feel about dogs.  –If you know their perspective on dogs, you can know whether you need to keep your dog away from them, or allow your dog to eventually say hello calmly.  Remember that some postal people may be just as fearful of, or frustrated with dogs as your dog is to them!  Learn what their comfort level is and be respectful of it.

 

4. Change how your dog feels about the postal people.  –Many dogs who lunge or bark have been “corrected” (punished) for their behavior.  This kind of reaction has only added to their fear or frustration.  If your dog has never been corrected in any form, congrats to you, but your dog’s fear or frustration about the postal people is still present, so we need to address it.   We do this by changing the association that the dog has with the perceived threat.  We use food to transform the dog’s negative emotions to positive emotions by pairing pleasant things with the appearance of the unpleasant thing (Mr. Postman).  When done correctly, this results in a dog who turns and looks happily and expectantly at his person as soon as the dog spies the stranger-danger that used to elicit a reactive outburst.

Ever since Hocus became reactive (barking and going berserk) around the UPS and mailman vehicles I decided to rain down delicious treats when they approached.   Note: The key word is DELICIOUS.  Don’t grab a dog biscuit. Get the bacon, people.  

 

Science of how food helps in dog training

 

If we were in the house I calmly presented any one of Hocus’ favorite treats (like bacon, cheese, cat food, or chicken) to Hocus when she heard them pull up; I did this on our walks when they rumbled by; I did this when she saw them in the window; I did this anytime she heard or spied them coming.  (This video from Urban Dogs is a great example of how this can  be done outside.)  Eventually her fear and frustration turned to glad, calm anticipation.

 

5. Change how YOU feel about your dog going berserk.  Folks, you are the adults here.  You can see the full picture.  Have compassion for your canine.  Learn to control your reaction to your dog.  Take a deep breath and remember that your dog truly believes he/she is doing their job!  Thank them for doing such a good job of letting you know the postal person is here!  Remove your frustration!  Don’t allow yourself to go into your own fear or reactivity.  That only creates more confusion, fear, and frustration.

 

6.  Help your dog to focus on something else.   If you are inside and the monster machine arrives, tell your dog you will take over from here, and ask them to focus on something else that they do really well.  We call this an incompatible behavior.  Identify a behavior that’s incompatible with, or cannot occur at the same time as, the problem behavior. For example, your dog can’t be at the door barking if she’s going to get her favorite toy.

My husband and I (literally) say, “Hocus, you did a great job letting us know they’re here.  We will take over from here.  You are safe. We are all safe!  Now go get your Kong and bring it to me!”.   Once she brings us the Kong or squeaky toy, she gets rewarded with something that will keep her attention and focus for a while  (usually via frozen stuffed Kong or pig ear).

Remember to stay calm. Take deep breaths!  Be easy.  Think about what you want your dog to do instead!  By the way, “not barking” doesn’t count. What could your dog be taught to do instead of her self-assigned job of Caped Canine Crusader?  Be playful and easy about all of this while helping your dog to move her energy into something healthier, and more peaceful and fun!

 

7. Ask the postal people for their permission. If they are comfortable with it, and you have already been working on counter conditioning your dog to the sights and sounds of them from a distance, bring your dog out on a secure leash and harness. Then offer irresistible treats to your dog.  You don’t need to be close to the postal person at this point.  Merely standing on the doorstep while they are at the street can be too much for some dogs.   Just let your dog see them while you offer the tasty treats.

 

food for dogs anxiety and fear

 

8.  Ask the postal people for their participation. Not only is our UPS dude a hottie, but he is well prepared for pooches.  He has a huge bag of dog treats that he drives around with, ready to offer to dogs at the houses he visits.  All of the dogs on our block love him!  All the pups know that whenever a package arrives, a treat will be arriving too!  Our dog learned very quickly that the stranger-danger coming to the door was not only bringing a boxed goodie for her people, but she gets goodies too!

 

 

9.  Make safety a priority.   Always err on the side of caution, and if you are not sure about these steps, hire a force-free professional to help you. If your dog is displaying aggressive behavior, please consult a force-free animal behavior consultant .  Don’t try to fix this on your own.

 

NOTE:  Hocus Pocus is not aggressive towards humans.  She absolutely adores people, but can become quite frustrated and vocal when she cannot get to the person.  She has a history of reactivity to loud, unexpected sounds, and to some dogs.


 

dogs and mailman_pets and UPS man_reactive dogs_conscious Companion

 

Don’t let the fear of the postal people be the Fear Grinch that steals your holiday cheer.  Show your dog that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Teach your dog that all is well, and that he/she is safe.

🎄Merry Christmas and Holiday Blessings to you and yours! ⛄❄️

 


 

Recommended Reading 

 

 

King Albert The Grey

King Albert the Grey

In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.

I don’t know any gods in this life, but I know a king.

He is a good king.  This king does not live in a palace made of stone and ivory.   He does not sit on a throne made of jewels and gold.  His throne is any place that he claims in his palace.  This king rules every being in his palace.  He does not rule with an iron fist, but with calm assuredness.  This king’s palace is our home.  This king is wise, brave, and handsome above all others.  This king’s name is King Albert The Grey.  He is our feline companion.  He is my teacher.  And today is his 15th birthday.

All Things Grey

Just so you know, we don’t walk around referring to our grey cat as “King Albert The Grey!” (with trumpets sounding in the background).   However, when the feline veterinary specialists call him by his full name we don’t correct them, because it’s hilarious to hear them say it so seriously.

But to Albert, things in his world are quite serious.

Albert is not known for being goofy and playful.  Anyone who knows him views him more like a military general, a mini grey panther, or a wee grey grizzly bear.   Albert is fierce.  But he is also fiercely devoted and unconditionally loving to those he trusts.  He is one of a kind.  He is our magnificent grey cat.

As Albert turned 15 years of age today he moved out of the “senior” years and moved into the “geriatric” years.  This has been a very challenging time.  It has also been a miraculous and life changing time for both me and Albert.  Although most people assume that senior and geriatric cats are in the “grey area” of life where things fade and waste away, Albert is proving otherwise.

As I reflected on what he is teaching us, and the many grey areas of life, I started to wonder about the color of grey.  I wondered about the symbolism of Albert’s grey coloring; could the color of grey have a deeper meaning?

People understand what the color grey is, but most are unaware of this color’s role throughout history.

Grey.  ɡrā/
1. of a color intermediate between black and white

synonyms: silvery, silver-gray, gunmetal, slate, charcoal, smoky

  • In Etymology- Grey comes from the Middle English grai or grei, from

    Griselda_chaucer
    Griselda, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, is known for her patience despite her suffering, and takes her name from the color grey.

    the Anglo-Saxon graeg, and is related to the German grau. The first recorded use of grey as a color name in language was in AD 700.

  • In History and Art –In the Middle Ages grey was the color of undyed wool, and therefore was the color most commonly worn by peasants.
  • In Literature – the character Cinderella takes her name from the color of cinders (ashes).
  • In Military – During the American Civil War, the soldiers of the Confederate Army wore grey uniforms. This was (and still is) the color of the uniform of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and cadets at the Virginia Military Institute.
  • In Religion – In Christian religion grey is the color of ashes, and a biblical symbol of mourning and repentance used during Lent or on days of fasting and prayer.  Grey was reputed to be the color of the clothing of Jesus Christ, and for that reason is the color worn by monks of the Cistercian and Franciscan as a symbol of their vows humility, modesty, and poverty. Buddhist monks and priests in Japan and Korea often wear a sleeved grey, brown, or black outer robe. Taoist priests in China also often wear grey.
  • In the Animal World –  Grey is a very common color for species ranging from whales to mice.  Gray provides a natural camouflage and allows animals to blend with their surroundings.
  • In the Human World – The substance that composes the brain is sometimes referred to as grey matter, or “the little grey cells”, so the color grey is associated with all things intellectual.

    elves
    Scandinavian folklore depicts gnomes & nisser in grey clothing.
  • In Folklore – Grey is often associated with goblins, elves, and other legendary wise creatures.  This is partly because of their association with dusk, as well as because these creatures were said to be outside of traditional moral standards of black and white.

44b5569dfb0e2ceba1f828a70c594920

The writer J. R. R. Tolkien made use of the folkloric symbolism of grey in his works, which draw upon Scandinavian folkloric names and themes. Gandalf is called the Grey Pilgrim; settings include the Grey Havens and Ered Mithrin, the grey mountains; and characters include the Grey Elves.

  • In Fashion – During the 19th century, Paris and

    cary grant
    The 1950s & 1960s were the age of glory for grey suits, worn by movie stars and President Kennedy

    London set the fashion for women and men. The intent of a business suit was above all to show seriousness, and to show one’s position in business and society.  To reflect this, bright colors disappeared and were replaced by a dark charcoal grey frock coat in winter, and lighter greys in summer.

  • In Society – Grey is most commonly associated in many cultures with the elderly because of the association with grey hair. It symbolizes the wisdom and dignity that come with experience and age.

 

King Albert The Grey
Albert in his excellent grey suit – He is not a monk, a soldier, or a movie star, but he is quite dignified.


Why I Celebrate The King of Grey

Albert could probably care less about those fun facts about the color grey, but they do shed light on the color of grey and its influence in the world over the centuries.  And  I was surprised to discover that much of the symbolism of grey is relevant to our King Albert the Grey!

There are so many things I could be doing with my time today, but I chose to share with you the many reasons why I celebrate Albert.  My hope is that you might come to see one of your beloveds in a new light.

Geriatric Senior Cats _conscious Companion_king Albert

A King Who Rules Many Kingdoms.   

grey skies
Grey skies over our house today, on King Albert the Grey’s 15th birthday

Anyone who knows Albert understands that he pretty much rules the house. He’s not bossy, but all of the other animals –  and even the humans – recognize his status.    He has the air of a king!  This morning when I woke I was not surprised to find that the sun had disappeared.  It was not gone, but merely clouded over by deep, soulful grey skies.  Today, after all, is King Albert The Grey’s birthday, so the skies reflected his day of birth.  King Albert controls pretty much everything in our home (Ahem, I mean, his palace), so of course he controls the skies as well!  Such is the life of a King.

A King Who Makes No Apologies 

One of the best qualities about Albert is his ability to never feel guilty or remorse for his choices.  What a lesson in life that is for us humans!  Albert sees his options, and makes a decision without wavering.  He stands firm and moves forward.  There is never a doubt in his mind.  He does not see right and wrong. He knows what works, what feels good, and what does not.  He does not allow the meager human trappings of obligation and guilt to guide him.  He makes conscious deliberate decisions that work for him.

“Guilt” isn’t in cat vocabulary.  They never suffer remorse for eating too much, sleeping too long or hogging the warmest cushion in the house. They welcome every pleasurable moment as it unravels and savour it to the full until a butterfly or falling leaf diverts their attention. They don’t waste energy counting the number of calories they’ve consumed or the hours they’ve frittered away sunbathing.  Cats don’t beat themselves up about not working hard enough. They don’t get up and go; they sit down and stay.  Relaxation is an art form.  From their vantage points on top of fences and window ledges, they see the treadmills of human obligations for what they are – a meaningless waste of nap time.― Helen Brown, Cleo

A King Who Knows What He Wants

Albert knows what his body wants. He knows what his body needs.  I now know this from the energy healing sessions, communications, and the many feline veterinary visits that we have been experiencing together.   He is wise in this way.  He knows what will aggravate, or help his medical conditions. He openly communicates this to us, when we ask.

Albert also does what he wants, when he wants, and not a moment sooner.  And when he wants something he asks for it without hesitation. These are invaluable lessons that I have learned from him!

Conscious Companion_senior Cats _copyright 2016
King Albert enjoying a few minutes of stretches and sunshine on his prescribed walkabout to help with arthritis and other physical challenges

 


He liked companionship, but he wouldn’t be petted, or fussed over, or sit in anyone’s lap a moment; he always extricated himself from such familiarity with dignity and with no show of temper.  If there was any petting to be done, however, he chose to do it. Often he would sit looking at me, and then, moved by a delicate affection, come and pull at my coat and sleeve until he could touch my face with his nose, and then go away contented. ~Charles Dudley Warner

A King Who Requires Respect and Boundaries

There is no forcing Albert to do anything.  This is another valuable lesson for anyone who wants to deepen the trust and bond between an animal and person.  Forcing him to do anything will not end well for anyone.  Respect and boundaries are a must.  He has taught me so much about what healthy boundaries are and how to set and maintain them.


 

In the middle of a world that had always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence. ~Rosanne Amberson

A King Who Walks with Confidence 

My Cherokee ancestors knew (and remembered) to call upon the spirit or energy of an animal for whom they needed help, guidance, or inspiration.  If one needed leadership they might call upon the energy of  mountain lion.  If one wished to invoke the energy of grounding forces and strength, they might call on bear.  We refer to this energy as an animal’s “medicine.”  In fact, even our domesticated cats have this medicine!  Some of their medicine includes: independence, healing, curiosity, many lives, magic, cleverness, seeing the unseen, dreaming, protection, and Love.

As the above quote alludes to, this world can be quite mad.  More than once in my life I was inspired to call on the energy of King Albert the Grey.  At the time I was nervous, scared, intimidated, and wavering in my thoughts.  I was shaking and so unsure of myself.

You might be wondering why I would call on a domestic cat when I was feeling those emotions, instead of a bear or puma.  I can explain.  At the time we shared a home with four cats.  None of them could offer what Albert’s energy could do.   Albert walks with confidence.  So much so that Albert has always felt more “bear” than feline.  He has the same confident predatory energy of the jaguars and cougars I once cared for.  His energy is like that of a lion.  In fact, he has always felt more like an actual king than a cat.  

This has always been so.  Ever since the day I first met him (as he was sneaking into my window one afternoon) he was beaming with calm confidence and unwavering focus and guiltless determination.  Even at 15  years of age, with his current health challenges, Albert exudes this same confidence and stability.  He radiates regal authority.  He rules our house with calm assuredness.  He teaches us with patience and compassion. This energy was exactly the kind of energy I needed that day. And the most amazing part is that I felt his energy as soon as I called upon him.

Animal Totems Susan Seddon Boulet
To the ancients, all animals had a sacred and spiritual meaning. The tribal healers knew the animal spirits well.  Each one offered their unique energy to anyone who called upon them.   Image from “Shaman: The paintings of Susan Seddon Boulet”

A King Who Heals and Teaches

Albert has introduced me to ideas and experiences that I never thought were possible.  Because of the healing and communication work that we have been doing together, our bond is stronger than it has ever been. Our relationship is deeper than I had ever expected, (or even wanted to have with him).  There is peace and harmony in our home because he is at peace.  Even with the health challenges he is currently facing, he is more alive and more vibrant than ever before.  While he is healing he is teaching us all.

Albert_Senior Cats _conscious Companion_just cats clinic
Offering Albert love and support while we were at the feline specialist last month

A King Who Waits Patiently and Allows

Another reason I humbly and excitedly celebrate King Albert today is because of the immense gratitude I feel for him.  What he has taught me this year has caused me to be (and I don’t use this phrase flippantly) … in total awe of him.  I am privileged to see Albert in a whole new light.  I thought I knew him before, but what I thought I knew of him were mere labels I had placed on him.  Now I see him.  I understand him.  I feel as if he has been waiting for me to listen to him, to see him, and allow everything to unfold perfectly. He is such a gift in our lives.

unnamed (2)

Today we honor and celebrate your life, King Albert!  May the next 15 years be full of love, healing, and vibrant joy!  May your heart only know peace.  May you age gracefully.  May you always feel loved.

We love you, King Bear.

P.S. Thank you for allowing me to spend so much time on this post, instead of making you those birthday “catcakes” that I promised you.  Your patience will pay off quite deliciously in the near future, Albert!  =^..^=


 

Have challenging times brought you and your beloved closer? Have circumstances in life helped you to see your animal companion from another perspective?  How have they inspired or changed you? I would love to hear your story!

 

What you do makes a difference.

jane-goodall_quotes

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Dr. Jane Goodall

Dog Science Worth Sharing!

Studying animal personality can tell us more about both animals AND humans. ~ Sam Gosling

Science is about critical thinking not facts – Prescott Breeden

I love getting things for free, and I love convenience, but when fun and enlightening education is added to the mix, I am a very happy woman!  I haven’t written in a while due to a number of life’s callings, but I took a break to share this noteworthy news with you all today.  Rarely can anyone, anywhere in the world, join a conference for free from your home, with no strings attached, but YOU CAN!

This year the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science (SPARCS) conference is free to everyone all around the world!  They began their lively discussions and presentations on Friday and they run through today -all day! The daily presentation themes include:

  • Aggression and Conflict
  • Personality and Temperament
  • Science in Training

You have the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in Canine Science from the comforts of your own home! Check out the amazing speakers here and see the full schedule here. You can see the daily TOPICS here!

There’s one more day left to learn from some of the greatest minds in canine science! Some of today’s topics include:

–> “Coyotes, Koalas, and Kangaroos: What the behavior of other animals can teach you about your dog”

–> “How owner personality influences the behavior of dogs”

 

Click here to tune in and learn more about your canine companion!


Here are just a few fascinating and enlightening quotes from today’s and yesterday’s speakers:

“Even the most complex behavior can be governed by some simple rules.” -Prescott Breeden

“Predatory behavior is NOT aggression” – Kathryn Lord

“We talk about aggression as if it’s a bad thing; natural selection supports some forms of aggression.” – Coppinger

“Taking breaks in play: allows dogs to avoid too much arousal.” – Patricia McConnell

“Results from C-BARQ suggest an inverse relationship between dog size and fear of  other dogs and strangers.” – James Serpel

“Miscommunication in play leads to conflict.” – Kathryn Lord

“One cannot generalize across the board about aggression. There are breed differences AND individual differences.” ~ James Serpell

“Breed Specific Legislation NOT JUSTIFIED” -James Serpel

“Humans unintentionally causing conflict for dogs ~
Dogs ‘appear in conflict’ and owners runs in and grabs by collar”

“A predator has to have built-in knowledge of where to bite to kill prey. Genes!” – Ray Coppinger

“Spaying & neutering effect on aggression in dogs? CBARQ data says yes, but very breed specific.”

“Dogs bark because they are conflicted. Some dogs bark MORE because they are more conflicted.” – Kathryn Lord

“Humans are selecting against owner-directed aggression all the time.” James Serpell

“Viruses that affect DNA can cause behavioral changes in mice”. – Prescott Breeden

“In dogs, conscientiousness and openness tend to meld together.” – Sam Gosling

“It’s important to know WHY dogs are barking in order to avoid anthropomorphism.” – Kathryn Lord

“Across several studies, pet store dogs are more likely to be reported as showing aggression.” James Serpell

“You want a dog you can call a pet, so you’re gonna drug it all the time? Give me a break!” Ray Coppinger

“Personality descriptions can tell us just as much about the person describing the animal as the animal itself.” – Sam Gosling

“The [animal] shelter itself can be a major negative influence on the behavior of a dog.” – Kathryn Lord

“Rely on MULTIPLE assessments for success in evaluating shelter dogs.” – James Serpell

“Dog bite data is biased toward common breeds, large breeds, and serious types of aggression.” – James Serpell

“Words we use to describe behavior may or may not be useful, too broad or too narrow or not descriptive enough.” – Sam Gosling

“Motivation can be learned (conditioned), and learning is fuelled by motivation. Keyword: ANTICIPATION” – Simon Gadbois


TUNE IN NOW to hear them for yourself!

If you are reading this after the live conference is over, the videos will be available to SPARCS members.  You can  learn about how to become a SPARCS member here!

1-SPARCS-SocialMedia-Support-Join_7.16.13

“Bringing the world together in our love for dogs!” – SPARCS 2014

Setting Aside Judgement – Focusing on Education

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.” ― James Thurber

Hocus Pocus and I teaching our local Girl Scouts how to be Canine Safety Smart this week
Our local Girl Scouts learning how to be Canine Safety Smart!  Hocus Pocus and I had the pleasure and honor of teaching and learning from these amazing youth leaders.

2014’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week is wrapping up.  It’s been a tremendously positive week with so many great messages about safety, prevention, and dog awareness being spread across the nation and world.

The goal that we educators and dog trainers are trying to reach this week is simple, but profound: educate the masses so we can change the statistics.   We can do this by teaching dog lovers to become more “Dog Aware” as Jennifer Shryock, Founder of Family Paws Parent Education, explains here.  We can change these statistics by changing the way we individually interact with, and think about dogs.  We teach our future leaders how to safely interact with dogs, and before we know it, they are teaching their community about dogs. Change begins with educating our youth.

The goal of this week is not to instill fear, to judge, or to place blame on people who unknowingly put their dog or children in precarious scenarios.  Rather, it is to help all of us become more aware of our dog, others’ dogs, children and family members, guests in our homes, people and dogs on the streets, and anywhere else you can think of that involves a dog.  This week is about educating people on how to be a more “dog aware”, and a responsible Conscious Companion to dogs everywhere, every day of the year.

Dogs are part of our families.  They are our companions, our friends. To many, they are our furry kids. But we must remember that dogs are hardwired to be dogs!  It’s in their DNA.  We must honor this fact buy allowing them to Be a Dog. When we anthropomorphize them, and when we put them on a pedestal and expect perfect, angelic behavior, we do them a great disservice.  We aren’t allowing them to be who they are – a dog, with flaws and all.

Instead of assuming that our dog is incapable of inflicting harm to another person or animal, let’s assume for a minute that they are capable of out-of-the-ordinary behavior.  What would that mean for you and your dog?  Would you begin to take more precautions around kids, other dogs, other people, and other animals?  Or would you continue to convince yourself that “my dog would never…”?

Any dog, of any breed, of any age is capable of biting.  Anything with a mouth is capable of biting! Acknowledging this fact can only help. It’s merely something to recognize and be proactive about.  We prevent dog bites through compassionate, science-based education.

If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, it’s not something to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about.  If you have a dog that lunges at people or other dogs, don’t be ashamed or pretend that it’s not an issue.  Ask for help.  Find a qualified force-free trainer that understands your needs, and your dog’s specific needs.  There’s no need to hide and be embarrassed.  We learn from these experiences.  Sometimes our worst experiences help others.  There is a compassionate community that does care, who will not judge and condemn, and who wants to help parents and families in need, without blame and judgement.  But this does come with individual responsibility.

It’s our duty as dog guardians and parents to recognize when we need help. We must also learn how to recognize our dog’s specific canine needs, understand their subtle behaviors, know their thresholds, recognize when they have had enough, set them up for success, and to be their advocates every day.  We all “love” our dogs, but true, selfless love is doing what might not be easy or convenient to us.  We may have to move out of our comfort zone. We show love to our dogs when we take the time to educate ourselves, so we can truly understanding their nature and their needs. We show love to our dogs by learning how to read them, respecting their boundaries, training them without punishment and fear, being their advocate, and honoring them as dogs.

Dogs can be some of our greatest teachers if we allow them to be.  But we have to be willing to learn.  When we set aside fears, judgement, and blame, and we choose to focus on creating and participating in fun, compassionate education, we create a safe place for people to come and share their stories.  We create a prevention-focused, educated community.

“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach and far from being burdened by an inability to speak they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear, to look into more than past.” ― Nick Trout, Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles