As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of dogs. Yeeeaaah that might be an understatement. Dogs are the macaroni to my cheese, the peanut butter to my jelly…ok, you get the idea. Anywho, last August I fostered a little Shih Tzu for the Nevada Humane Society. He had been hit by a car and needed surgery to repair a broken leg. This little guy was having a hard time in the shelter and needed a quiet and safe place to be nursed back to health. Welp, needless to say little Buster is now a permanent member of the fam.
However, we soon discovered that we had a big problem. Apparently after the drugs wore off, little Buster developed a bit of an attitude. He reminded me of one of those cute little raptors in Jurassic Park. Of course, his Velociraptor-like behavior was far from acceptable, so I enrolled him in a training class. On our first day, I looked around the room to see a number of different dogs, large and small. A yellow lab, a Chihuahua, a Poodle-Yorkie mix, a Great Pyrenees, a Lhasa Apso…and a bunch of silly humans. As the class got underway, I realized that this was not so much about training the dogs, it was about training us…and they had it right! Dogs respond to the signals and behavior that we are projecting. Once we learn how to modify our ways, the dogs respond accordingly.
This got me to thinking…can we apply the same logic when it comes to dealing with people? Could it be possible that we are inadvertently giving off signals that cause people around us to react in a negative way? Here are some helpful tidbits I picked up in puppy class that may help you interact with others, whether they have two legs or four.
Be patient. Everyone is unique and moves at a different pace.
Be kind. This goes hand in hand with being patient. If you feel you are getting frustrated, take a breather and start again when you are calm.
Reward good behavior. We always make a huge deal when things are done incorrectly…but it is much more important and beneficial to reinforce and praise positive behavior.
Be clear. Make sure your dog/person understands you. If not, change your method.
Be consistent. This is a big one! Once you find a method that works, stick to it. Constant change will cause constant confusion.
Pay attention to your tone and body language. Do you have an aggressive tone? Do you avoid eye contact? Do you have a closed off stance? Are you frowning? Switch it up. Research suggests that nonverbal signals can account for up to 80% of all communication.
Be Generous. Allocate lots of time for training, and don’t be stingy with the treats.