In episode 50 of the Paws & Reward Podcast, Sarah Stremming and I discuss my recent solo trip to Peru. We discuss what the street dogs of Peru taught me about life, how both Sarah and I are integrating these concepts, and our invitation to pet parents and trainers. What is the gift and opportunity in allowing all behavior and emotions? Sarah Stemming is the owner of The Cognitive Canine and podcast host of Cog-Dog Radio. Watch our conversation on my YouTube Channel.
What do we mean by “allowing” all behavior and emotions with our dogs?
Allow the discomfort, allow communication to happen, and allow dogs to just be dogs without compromising welfare.
The dogs in Peru were behaviorally balanced. They were fully allowed to express their innate “dogness”.
What we do in our society is put them on a leash or confine them in some way, put them in forced/contrived scenarios with other dogs like dog parks and daycares, and we don’t allow for the full expression of dogness.
What do dogs naturally do? They bark, dig, scavenge, and chew. These are natural and normal behaviors. We often ask dogs to stop being dogs in order to exist in our preferred human environment. We want them to fit into a box where we define the acceptable parameters, often without giving them the space to exist as themselves.
How do we balance our own emotions and behaviors while doing the same for our dogs?
As humans, our nature is to live in communities and to be social, though we are becoming more and more isolated as a society. We go against our nature a lot, too, and we inadvertently do the same to our dogs. We want them to conform to our life, routines, and expectations instead of adjusting to allow them to be authentic to their nature.
By forcing conformity and becoming more isolated as a society, we are getting further and further from our nature and so are dogs.
How can we improve our relationship with our dog by “allowing” more?
Relationships are work. We cannot have joy without pain and we cannot get what we want without putting in the work.
When working to improve our relationship, allow for the process to be a bit messy, allow for there to be curiosity around the goal, and for the benchmark to shift. We are all either trying to desperately hold onto positivity or trying to actively avoid any negativity, but both exist and both can bring us greater understanding and patience. There are lessons in both.
Does this mean we should allow any and all behavior?
Allowing for the full range of dog behavior is not about sitting back and doing nothing, but about seeing situations for what they are and adjusting accordingly. It’s about accepting our dogs for who they are and working with them rather than against their nature. When you put dogs in non-ideal circumstances, you’re going to see non-ideal responses.
Training is still essential, but by allowing ourselves to see our dog’s in a different way we can improve our communication and bond over time.