Each interaction you have with your dog matters, none is trivial. Each interaction either enhances your relationship, or damages it. Each interaction either builds cooperation or causes resistance, builds trust or destroys it, creates harmony or conflict.
Consider how many times a day you interact with your dog. Be aware that each look, each word, each touch, each action and, yes, each thought contributes to and impacts your relationship.
Think about all the interactions you have had with your dog today alone and consider each one’s effect. With each interaction, were you enhancing or damaging your relationship?
What type of looks have you given him today? Was your expression warm, inviting and pleasant? Happy? Smiling? Laughing? Were your eyes kind? Or was your expression cold, intimidating and unpleasant? Scowling? Glaring? Was your goal to connect with him? To build trust? Or was your goal to intimidate him? To scare and coerce?
What was your voice like each time you spoke to him today? Was it pleasant? Was it a tone that helps him feel safe in your presence? A tone to build his confidence to learn, try and do? A tone you’d appreciate if you were its recipient? Were your words supportive? Was your tone harsh, icy and full of disapproval? Frustration? Were your words condescending, degrading or demeaning? Was your intention to intimidate? To shut him down? Was it a tone you’d appreciate if it were used on you?
What did you do when you were with him today? Did you recognize his attempts to say hello, interact, and to simply connect with you? Did he seek you out confidently or is he nervous in your presence? Did you take time to converse with him? Play with him? Enrich his day and yours? Or did you find his presence annoying? Yell at him to go away? Ignore him? Put him out in the yard so you wouldn’t have to deal with him?
How did you physically interact with him today? Did he welcome your contact, or did you force it upon him? Did he trust your hands and your touch? Should he? Was your touch calm, affectionate, and connecting? Or did you grab, push and shove to move him? To get him out of your way? Did you hit, swat or pop?
What about the simple yet significant actions of putting on his collar, harness and leash? Were these interactions free of force? Was he a willing participant? Was he accepting, comfortable and happy with these interactions? Did you place the equipment on him mindfully with tact and consideration? Was it equipment he enjoys wearing, or does he fear it? Did you grab at him, and pull him closer? Drag him out from his hiding place? Did you abruptly and mindlessly throw the equipment on him? Wrestle, manhandle, restrain him, perhaps with the help of another person, while you strapped the equipment onto him?
In each of these daily interactions, were you enhancing your relationship or damaging it? Building trust or destroying it? Creating harmony or conflict? Cooperation or resistance? (Be aware that even in the absence of external resistance there is often internal resistance, and rightfully so.)
Why does each interaction matter? Because a relationship is the summation of all interactions between two parties, in this case you and your dog. Be aware that negative interactions have greater weight and impact on a relationship than positive ones. Be aware that negative interactions cannot be erased or undone. Be aware that a single negative interaction can erase and undo many positive interactions. Grabbing, pushing, yelling, scolding, grimacing at and otherwise stressing and scaring your dog – no matter how trivial you perceive these to be – weaken your relationship, destroy his trust in you. Be aware it is not always possible to regain his trust and when it is possible, it requires time and a large number of positive interactions. That’s why each interaction matters.
Beware of negative interactions. Their effect will be with you today, tomorrow, and in the future.
Why does each interaction matter? Because our actions become habit. When we do something repeatedly, we no longer think about it (or never thought about it in the first place), we react with an almost “knee-jerk” response, no thinking involved, mindlessly we run almost on auto-pilot. We develop a habit of doing something a certain way, including how we interact with our dog. Habits are a big deal. Our habits have a direct affect on our health & lifestyle and either help us or harm us! That’s a big deal! That’s why each interaction matters.
Of the interactions mentioned above, which do you want as your habits? Which have become your habits? Harsh looks, intimidating voice, unpleasant energy, grabbing, yanking, pushing, and other stressful interactions multiple times on a daily basis – are these currently your habits? Or are you in the habit of using pleasant expressions, supportive voice, kind hands and touch, and relaxed, low stress interactions multiple times on a daily basis? Do your current habits contribute to a healthy relationship with your dog? To a healthy you? A healthy lifestyle? To healthy relationships with other people?
Be wise in your interactions with your dog, none are trivial, each one matters. Each has an impact on your relationship. Be wise in your choice of actions, none are trivial, each one matters. Each contributes to your habits, health & lifestyle.