Cultivating meaningful work – letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
Many moons ago, a close friend of mine got a summer job working for the parks department while he was studying. He was working with men which, in the West of Scotland, would be described as “bears”. A bear is generally a man in his late 30s onwards who has had a lifetime of hard work, maybe likes the simpler things, maybe likes to drink too much, reads the tabloid newspapers always starting with the sports section, can’t express any emotion, in constantly sarcastic, can be toxic to be around but can also be good company doe to their wicked sense of humour. My friend was reading a novel one lunchtime, maybe John Grisham or Stephen King, and one of the bears asked him about the book. Next week, my friend is reading again at lunch, a different book, maybe a different author. The same bear asks “are you still reading” to which my friend, at 17 years of age, replies, “aye, I’ve not finished them all yet”. Touché. If my friend had taken notice of the inference that “men aren’t really supposed to read” or some iteration of that he may have changed his behaviour. He didn’t let self-doubt or how he was supposed to act in the presence of these men influence his reading. He was bettering himself.
We are playing at the park with your dog and being silly. We receive a look from someone who disapproves of how we are behaving and we stop being childlike in our attitude towards our dog. The relationship suffers. We become less playful.
Thing our dogs are “supposed” to do.
- Sit before crossing the road.
- Sit before getting out the door[JM1] .
- Sit before getting their lead on or off.
- Sit before getting out the car.
- Sit nice.
- Never jump on anyone ever for any reason.
- Never chew any of our stuff.
- Sleep on the floor or on their bed but never in your bed or on the couch (as I’m typing this, Logan is lying on my bed behind me, gently snoring).
- Walk next to your left leg at all time and never waiver.
- Not stop and sniff on a walk.
This may seem extreme and many people won’t be that strict with their dogs but some will and many will do some or many of the above points and more will do them sometimes or often. Now let’s adapt that list and instead of saying that our dog is supposed to do these things, change the perspective. These are things we are supposed to be able to get from our dog. If we are supposed to be able to (by whose standard? The “dog behaviour police”?) and we can’t how do we then feel? How do we then act towards our dog. If we act that way, then how does our dog then feel? How does their life change?
I know there are many different philosophies on how to train a dog but let’s say you employ the services of a dog trainer who bullies your dog in some way. I’ve heard accounts from clients whose dog’s have defecated during training sessions with other trainers because the dog is so scared or confused. They said they knew at the time that it wasn’t right but didn’t say anything. The doubted themselves and because they didn’t intervene, they then felt terrible shame afterwards. The flip side of that is that it takes courage and boldness to do so in the presence of someone who is meant to be the expert. That’s difficult but we need to do it.
How do we get round this? We decide what we want for our dogs and why. For me, and what I try to teach, is that all our decisions are for the dog’s welfare. With these in mind, we now train those behaviours in the most positive way we can. This takes effort and knowledge and our dogs deserve that work.
Please let go of what we are supposed to do or be able to do with our dogs. If you feel something is right, do it, if it’s not right, speak up on behalf of your dog.
Final part to come.