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No matter what circumstance, who I am with or what I am doing, there is always one factor that affects the situation the most, that determines how effective I am with the people involved or how successful my project becomes; it is ultimately how well I communicate. I have studied and taught effective communication, and I have always felt that it was a skill I excelled at. However, I was recently challenged on the communication front when a little tiny being came into my life. Within weeks of my little cockapoo, Lucy Loo, coming into our home, she became slightly aggressive, bossy and demanded constant attention. I thought that I had picked the wrong puppy out of the 6 in the litter but, at the time, she was the most submissive amongst her siblings, and she cuddled with us and made a purring sound when we held her; I immediately fell in love with her. When her behaviour slowly shifted, I feared that I had made a mistake by bringing her into my family’s life. We went from feeling love and joy to being stressed and anxious. Her behaviour was truly annoying and I knew that I needed help.
I’m persistent by nature, and I refused to believe that the sweet 5 pounder I had brought home had naturally turned into a 10 pound little demon within a few weeks. I was open to investigating the possibility that I had played some part in her change in behaviour, and I decided to have faith in her; she deserved that simply because I chose her and brought her home. And so, I began my research. I googled dogs, puppies and their behaviour, I bought the Cesar Milan book, “How to Raise The Perfect Puppy“, even though the title goes against everything I believe in; there is no such thing as perfection!! I enrolled her in puppy school, and I called friends who had well behaved dogs for advice. It appeared that I was doing everything right…….. She got a little bit better and yet, there was still something a little off about my wee Lucy. She seemed on edge and wanted attention most of the time; she dictated our every move. I decided to slow myself down and reflect on how we interacted and I came to realize that her and I were not communicating in the same language. More research ensued and, through Urban Paws in Kingston I found Ashley Wilson of Bark Busters.
Ashley confirmed my misgivings about how Lucy and I were communicating, and taught me how to speak to my puppy with clarity and in a language that she understood. The process ends up being very simple as it involves 3 basic steps;
1. Body Language – I needed to be the leader of the pack and stand confident and tall as a leader does;
2. Verbal Message – Lucy understands that a growl means “no” so, I now growl at Lucy when she is heading for mischief;
3. Action – If she ignores my growl, I clap my hands to indicate a boundary, similar to another dog nipping to accomplish the same boundary.
After 2 weeks of practicing this new method of training and communication, Lucy and I are on a new path of respect and calm. I have learned that I must be the leader of the pack within our relationship as the reason she became an anxious dog was the result of her feeling the need to be that pack leader in our home; in her mind, none of our family members were stepping up to the task and it became her responsibility; a much too stressful expectation for a wee 4 month old feline. By my being complacent and overly doting and attentive and not being clear about my expectations of her, she thought that she needed to tell me what to do; I was doing her a great disservice.
As in the human world, we need to provide a mode of communication that our animal friends can understand. Without confident posture, a clear message, and congruent behaviour, we loose the trust and respect that both owner and dog deserve. Lucy and I are back in love again.
#DareTo #LeadAuthentic #puppies #cockapoos #communication