Every Sunday morning I let my dog Scout, take me for a walk. I figure for everyday of the week this dog minds his manners, he can have a sniffing adventure one day of the week. And that is exactly what he does: He sniffs his way all around our neighborhood. I drink my coffee at his long sniffs and enjoy his tail wagging happiness.
A few months ago I put Scout’s needs on the back burner and I learned a few life lessons from this sweet canine.
I moved recently - from suburbia with a backyard to the city with a sidewalk. It was a big move logistically although a fun and exciting move for the family. I made sure the dog’s basic needs were met and anticipated he’d just go with the flow. Apparently I should have consulted with him first.
After settling in to our new place, dog walks went from exciting to frustrating. This large boy needed to run to the theme of Born Free and our walks were now riddled with pulls and commands. It seems Scout thought this was annoying. He began to bite at the leash. While his tail wagged, he’s bite, growl and jump around at me. This act might be cute if Scout were 25lbs. At 85lbs, we started to scare people on the street. It forced me to be a different master and our relationship changed.
Around this time I thought I would try a new doggie daycare. I used to think it was a silly idea, until I got a dog. I admit, there is something to this dog socialization thing. Scout is usually happier and calmer after a good hang with his friends.
I chose a darling daycare in the heart of the city that was really open to having Scout - being part Pit Bull, that is. Where they were open to a bigger dog, Scout really was the odd guy out. Little dogs ruled this new land and Scout wasn’t down with it.
Upon picking him up, I was informed that Scout had to wear the “Calming Band” for a bit. As my parent feathers fluffed up, I asked about this calming band. Turns out it’s a natural way to help dogs with anxiety. It looks like a woman’s elastic hair band. You twist it into a figure 8 - wrap it around the dogs snout and then behind each ear. There is a pressure point behind each ear that helps calm the dog down. Huh.
So, me, being a therapist, has to be open to this, right?
It sounded like Scout had responded to the calming band and so I asked to borrow it. Maybe, I thought, this was the answer to what was going on with this dog. I’m no pro at dog psychological issues and the calming band seemed like a reasonable solution to me.
It took one walk home to realize that this was not the way to deal with Scout. His demeanor looked like he was walking the dog walk of shame. With his head hung low, tail down and calming band firmly in place, he was not happy. And I think I could have ruined his street cred.
I returned the calming band the next day and put a new plan in place. I had to create a world for Scout to live in too. With all my planning for this move, this was something that hadn’t even crossed my mind.
In the next few weeks I developed a routine of Born Free running with lots of shorter walks. I realized that even though this boy was 2 years old now, we did have to work on a few new training commands that didn’t sound like me being a drill sargent. We reconnected.
Just as I was running along being a therapist every day, I forgot to look in front of me. Where I get that this is a dog, and I know I can’t compare human issues…the point to me is clear. Perception of our world does directly influence our behavior and sometimes we need guidance on how to be.