It’s the Little Things
The hardest thing to do is to put your own ego aside and allow the magic of Amichien® Bonding to do its work. As humans we are so invested in making a visible difference in the behavior of our dogs, as when we give a ‘command’ and are able to watch the dog execute it. AB opens the door for independent thinking, learning and change on the dog’s part and this is why it is so powerful. This, however, takes time, and is the reason why fearful dogs such as Tinker are either put under intense pressure to become more ‘normal’ and either get with the human’s program or are destroyed. Most people and organizations believe they don’t have the time to deal with the dog’s own timetable for developing more confidence and would prefer to invest their time and energies with dogs who return that time and energy spent with compliance behaviors that satisfy the human’s own ego needs. How sad for the dogs, and how sad for the humans who miss out on an experience that can teach them so much about healing, love, compassion, as well as important lessons for themselves.
At this point I have fully relaxed into Tinker’s timetable and it has actually become something of a gift to me. To have to make time for stillness and true calm is a practice that can be challenging. When it’s called for in meditation, this is understood as being an expectation and goal of that practice; to make time in the rest of the day to share space with Tinker can seem almost as though I’m being lazy when in fact this time with him is when work is being done in a very real sense even though sometimes we may not even have an interaction.
I do continue to see changes in Tinker’s behavior, and for the most part they are very small changes that others may not pick up on when observing him. But it’s the little things that for me are the signposts of his progress, such as:
Positioning himself at the entrance of his crate when I approach, sitting up on his elbows rather than curled up in a tight ball.
Stepping out of his crate as soon as I place his food bowl down, standing within inches of me.
Spending most of his time stretched out in his crate or up on his elbows, watching as we walk by, rather than curled up tight.
Beginning to eat before I have even left his room.
Lightly grooming while I change his pee pads, even though I am inches from him.
Not startling when I lightly brush his chin/neck with my fingertips when he’s taking his reward from my palm.
Barking when we enter the house, joining in with my other two dogs.
Quieting when I say ‘thank you’ in response to his alert barking.
Barking to gain my attention.
This last item, barking to gain my attention, is something Tinker has tried off and on and it seems it may be combined with barking to be fed, an interesting development as of late. Yesterday I was treated to much more barking from him than was normal and will be making note of when he begins to bark like this in the future to suss out what his goal truly is.
When I spent time with him in the afternoon yesterday, he bolted out of his crate and trotted quickly to me,and because of his enthusiasm I’m believing he had been trying to gain some attention with me. I hadn’t spent the normal amount of time with him in the past few days and it seems as though he was missing that interaction. He sniffed me all over, and sniffed my face several times when I first arrived, which I ignored, and he stayed out with me for a bit before returning to his crate. He calmed, I greeted him and he was very responsive. After we had some time together, he was much calmer afterward.
Tinker had formed an attachment to the woman in his previous home; she had devoted much time, energy and care toward helping him gain courage and confidence around people, and they had developed a routine of Tinker barking non-stop from the time she arrived home until she would interact with him. This was a substantial step forward for the little guy and although this routine tended to be all of his doing, it did give him the nice association that people were kind and would give him patient interaction (and food!). I have simply changed that routine to one in which Tinker is given the information he needs to know that he doesn’t have the burden of decision-making and interaction will happen on my terms. Being that he is a bright guy, he is asking the question of how much responsibility he may have, through the behaviors he knows worked before.
Change happens slowly sometimes, and the same lessons are repeated time and again. This is as true for dogs as it is for people. Learning to be patient with our dogs carries over to learning to be patient with ourselves, if we allow it. We all want change from others to happen when we want it and not necessarily when the other is ready to make the changes we wish to see. And those changes that we want from others first must make real sense to the one we want to see change. This takes convincing sometimes and dogs can be just as skeptical as humans when asked to make a change. Seeing the baby steps, the small signs of progress takes patience, like being satisfied with just lightly brushing the dog’s fur with the fingertips once or twice and leaving it at that for the time being.
Little things that will in time yield huge rewards.