This week I used Poe as an "actor" dog for Reactive Rover class. He was supposed to be walking with me at a distance from my student's dog, but he wasn't very responsive and kept pulling toward the door. I didn't think much of it. He's still pretty new to the environment at It's A Dog's World and I figured he was just a bit nervous.
Then, it happened. He squatted and experienced an epic diarrhea episode. Yup, right there in the middle of class. My reaction? Poor guy! His tummy was so upset. He tried to do his job, but he also tried to tell me he needed OUT.
I've had this happen in classes so many times. A typically responsive dog is "off" and then within a couple of minutes it's bodily fluid time. I've seen it all: vomit, urine, feces and god knows what else. (Note: Don't sit on the floor of any dog training center, and keep your shoes on. For real.)
But back to my point...what if I looked at Poe's behavior as stubborn? Willful? Dominant? Blowing me off? And god forbid, what if I punished him? Jerked on his leash. Scolded him verbally. Grabbed him roughly to make him follow me away from the door.
And then guess what?! I find out he had an involuntary and urgent biological need that took precedence over everything else. I am continually humbled by these moments. Dogs are not machines. They are living, sentient beings with their own minds and bodies that don't always cooperate, just like ours don't.
The perils of punishment are many, but this one hits me hardest. It's important to remember that it's not always about you, and that most dogs most of the time are not trying to be jerks. When in doubt, be kind.
I first realized this concept when I took classes from two of the greats, Terry Ryan and Kathy Sdao. This handout provides many examples of reasons we humans don't always respond to cues we are given, either.
So, what does this have to do with my eye-catching, and potentially off-putting, blog title? There's a vomiting
clause in dog training! If I'm calling my dog to come and s/he is literally vomiting (or at the mercy of another bodily function), s/he's has an "out" for responding to that cue in that moment. Period.
This also ties in with my upcoming Fenzi Pet Professionals Program workshop, "Do You Speak Dog? Translating the Effects of Human Actions on Dog Behavior."
Here's the newly released trailer:
If you're interested in learning more, you can enroll in the workshop for $29.95 at https://fdsapetprofessionals.com/workshop/do-you-speak-dog/. Lecture will be released this Sunday July 21st!
Sidekick. Train happy!