When your dog is “behaving badly”, it’s so easy to let yourself get frustrated about it. Nobody wants to see their dogs get upset in any way. We want them to be happy and not show any signs of stress, anxiety, or fear.
When our dogs are reactive or distracted, many of us immediately jump on the “I’ve got to fix my dog” bandwagon. We feel like we have to train the behavior out of them somehow. We become so focused on this idea of fixing our dogs that we forget that their behavior is how they communicate their feelings.
If your dog is barking at the neighbor’s dog through the fence, your dog probably feels uncomfortable. When a friend comes to visit and your dog tucks his tail between his legs and barks nervously, your dog probably feels anxious about the situation.
You might not be the biggest fan of this type of behavior, but your dog is entitled to their feelings. Feelings matter. Your dog’s behavior is how they express their feelings and our dogs need to feel heard.
If your dog’s behavior is making you feel frustrated and confused, this is how you can turn things around and transform your frustration into fascination!
Understanding your dog’s feelings
You don’t have to like how your dog expresses their feelings. But you do have to understand them. By understanding your dog’s feelings, you’re inviting a connection between you and your dog. From there, you’re in a better place to support your dog and make better decisions.
“By showing that you understand your dog’s feelings, you’re inviting connection.”
In the moment, it can feel like all hell is breaking loose and it’s hard. It’s hard to accept your dog’s feelings because their actions are so loud. Maybe your dog barks hysterically at other dogs, or they’re afraid of strangers. It’s difficult when you’re in that moment to remind yourself that this is how your dog is expressing their feelings. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable but know that you WILL get through it.
Once you begin to understand your dog’s feelings and allow them to have those feelings, you can make so much more progress towards helping them to feel safe, calm, and happy.
We all just want to feel heard and that includes your dog too. We must honor our dog’s feelings and remember that they are just as important and valid as our own. What follows is a deeper relationship with our dogs. One where our dog doesn’t do things for us expecting something in return but rather a deep connection and understanding based on trust and love for each other.
The value of deep listening
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk and peace activist. The other day, I was listening to a Super Soul interview with Oprah, where she spoke to Thich Nhat Hanh and he talked about the value of deep listening.
What he said about deep listening really resonated with me and I started to think about how we can transfer his teachings about deep listening to our dogs. Here’s a quote from the interview:
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose – to help him or her empty their heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion…”
“Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t argue or try to change his mind. You just listen with compassion and you help him to suffer less. That can bring transformation and healing.”
Learning to listen to our dogs is a skill that can be developed with practice. When it comes to deep listening, we must set aside our anger, our frustration, our expectations and just listen. Listening so that they can empty their hearts and they feel heard. This, I believe, is a gift we can give to ourselves, our dogs, and other people in our lives too.
Let’s practice deep listening together!
I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t been deep listening as much as I probably should. My thoughts have been side-tracked. I’ve been distracted and stressed about current events.
But I know how powerful deep listening can be. So, here’s my proposal:
Will you join me and practice deep listening in your own life? Let’s commit to it together and we can support each other through all of this chaos.
“Just know that you will get through it”
In case I haven’t been clear, deep listening does not mean you have to give in to your dog’s demands every time. It means that you are present, and you are listening to their feelings to help ease their suffering. You’re letting your dog know that you hear them and that is an opportunity to deepen your bond and trust that you have for one another.
Turning frustration into fascination
If you have a sensitive, high-spirited, or hyper dog, you know exactly how rewarding it feels when they go full doggy on you. They give you so much love, they want to play until the sun goes down, and their enthusiasm just lights you up inside.
On the other side, this type of dog might not listen to you. They’re wrapped up in their own little world and when they have a meltdown in the middle of your walk, he pretends he doesn’t hear your commands or pleas.
This is when feelings of frustration kick in. You feel like no matter what you do, your dog just doesn’t listen. The bad behavior continues, and you may act in anger, frustration, and even desperation. We’ve all been there and when we look back at how we reacted, we often realize that we could’ve handled the situation better.
Your dog doesn’t act badly on purpose, so try not to take it personally. Think about what the root cause of this behavior could be. What is your dog trying to say when they behave this way? Observe, listen, and learn.
Shift the frustration to a curious mindset. Remember that your hyper, fearful, or reactive dog is not trying to give you a hard time. They’re just reacting in the only way they know how, and they just need you to listen.
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrolment!
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 100, which you can listen to here.
Watch a short video trailer of the episode below: