Those who know me well, know that I have two Old English Sheepdogs. I adore my dogs for all the obvious reasons. They are loyal. Their love is unconditional. They give me purpose and motivate me to keep moving. They are funny and they are incredibility cute! But, they also teach me things.
Our younger dog Abby, is only 2 years old and I suspect that it is much like having a thirteen year old in your house. She’s loud. She’s sassy and she wants to be the center of attention. She needs frequent redirection regarding “appropriate” behavior and she has a lot to learn about good manners. We are doing our best to teach her but typical of the breed and of her age, she is stubborn.
Currently the behavior we are working to correct is unnecessary barking. She barks for attention. Every time I sit down to do something, she starts barking at me. When the TV is on and the focus shifts from her, she barks. If my computer is in my lap, she barks. If I dare to read a book she nudges it and barks. She barks sometimes just to hear the sound of her own bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. To be perfectly honest, as cute as she is, she can also be utterly exhausting.
I’ve tried all the usual tricks to quiet her barking. I’ve ignored her but this only agitates her. I’ve tried shaking a can of pennies at her and this only makes her bark at the can. I’ve tried putting her in another room but she just cries. I’ve used a mesh muzzle but the moment it comes off the barking starts again. I’ve used a spray bottle with water and this only makes her face matted but it sure doesn’t stop the barking. It’s all a big game to her. I’ve used treats and this only works until my pocket is empty of them. I try to use a deep stern tone when I tell her “no.” She gets plenty of exercise and playtime. She just doesn’t care. She is obstinate. This isn’t my first dog or my first OES. I know they have an “independent” mind. My Abby just takes it to a whole new level.
So, I am taking a different tact…a new approach. I am now using a quieter tone with her. I am trying to be entirely patient and very gentle in every way with her no matter what. I’ve came to the conclusion that she is very sensitive and she may very well be barking so much, in part, out of insecurity. I am paying attention to my own energy with her because I am sure she picks up on it. It seems to be working. I am slowly seeing positive changes. We still have work to do but she is a bit quieter and laying at my feet just a little more. She’s whimpering less and we are making progress. Hallelujah!
This got me thinking about how my dogs are always teaching me things about life and about relationships. In my efforts to correct Abby’s unwanted behavior, I came to the realization that it is actually a life lesson too. Dogs are not the only ones who pick up on the energy we put out in the world. When I run across someone else’s negativity or meet someone overly opinionated, I have a choice. I can respond by shaking a metaphorical can of pennies in their face or I can be quiet and calmly choose my response and not let someone else’s unpleasantness ruin my peace.
My dog’s behavior also reminded me that sometimes people act out because they are scared or unsure. When someone else is behaving badly, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. When I can take a step back from their actions, I can see this more clearly and when I do, it helps me respond in kindness instead of frustration. Responding to Abby’s unwanted barking in a positive way, has helped to calm both of us. So, I am reminded that the outcome of how I respond to most things in life can have a positive or negative impact and much of it depends on me and the choices I make.