Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Please Be Kind

Last Sunday, I held my dog walking tutorial at the park.  It went swimmingly well and I think everyone benefited from being there.  One of the participants reached out after the tutorial to tell me how panicked she'd been beforehand, almost to the point of not showing up and making an excuse for her absence, but then decided to at least show up and see how it goes. You see, she has a "challenging" dog.  Or at least everyone around her is telling her that her dog is challenging.  She's been working really hard to help her dog be less anxious in social situations, to enjoy walks, etc.  And yet, her family, her neighbors, and even a few of her friends keep telling her that her dog "still needs work."  Well, I'm here to tell you, first of all, we can all use a little work, can't we?  And second, comments like this are not well-meaning, nor are they helpful or kind.  All those comments have done are make my client feel like she's not doing enough for her dog, when it's actually quite the contrary; she's doing so much for her dog and it shows!  She and her dog did great in the class and I was thrilled with her progress and told her as much.  

The whole point of teaching this dog walking tutorial was to offer an opportunity for a group of dog owners to get together in a non-judgmental, supportive environment, and work together on their leash handling skills, ability to move around other people and other dogs, and expose their dogs to children playing, bikes, scooters, etc. in a controlled setting, and under my watchful eye.  I chose the participants for this class based not just on my knowledge of their dogs, but on their ability to be kind and caring with each other.  I knew that a couple of the dog owners attending this tutorial were going to be way out of their comfort zone.  I wanted them to know that every other dog owner around them has had similar experiences.  I had them practice exchanging pleasantries as they passed each other, learn to say no to friendly strangers who wanted to pet their dog, and what to do when children charge at you unattended.  We problem solved approaches from off leash dogs when your dog is on leash, and we even worked around picnickers and food.  Everyone left class with a better sense of how much they've accomplished and a few pointers on what they can do to make their walks even better in the future.

When I saw two people exchange contact information after class to set up a walk together again sometime soon, that's when I knew this tutorial had been a success.  Folks came to learn but walked away with the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and hit the park again without me there cheering them on.  As any good coach knows, you teach the skills and then you let your students soar.  One person asked if I'd do another tutorial in a few months to assess progress and make further recommendations, and I think that might be a fun thing to do a reunion, of sorts!  Do I think this group really needs it?  Not at all.  But if they want to work together again, I am happy to facilitate that and provide guidance.  No matter what, they all know now that kindness can be found among strangers.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.

Just me with some dog friends and their guardians on a lovely day to walk
 and work in the park.

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