Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beginning at the Beginning

I often wish My Bad Dog had come into my life as a puppy, rather than as a six-year-old two-time loser in the adoption game, and not just because she must have been the cutest puppy in the world, kind of a cross between this and this. Of course, if she had, I may not have been forced inspired to learn how to train a dog as I was by the arrival of My Bad Dog and her attendant antics, antics sometimes perceived inaccurately as hostility and aggression (an honest mistake, being as they do indeed appear to be of that variety).

In any case, now I know how to train a dog. Let us see if I can train My Bad Dog out of her crazy. I began today.

I began by reflecting on My Bad Dog. All I know of her early life is that she roamed the streets of Oxnard and was picked up as a stray when she was little more than a year old. She was adopted and then returned to the shelter. The owners said she was aggressive (and as discussed previously, a trainer labeled her as "incorrigible"). And so My Bad Dog's crazy is a mystery to me: I don't know why My Bad Dog turns into Demon Dog in the car (once she barked so viciously at the driver next to us at a stoplight that he swore and made an obscene gesture) or at the approach of mail carriers/UPS delivery folk/FedEx drivers/unidentified friends.

Not that it would help me to know why. Dogs aren't people; it's not as if I can discuss her early traumas with her and together find a way to let go of survival strategies that no longer serve her now that she lives in a safe home. Regardless, in reflecting on My Bad Dog, I begin from the premise that she is actually My Good Dog. She wants desperately to please me. She doesn't bark herself into a frenzy out of mischief or because she has a cranky temperament. There is some trigger, and then she finds herself out of control. In her right mind, she would never snap at me.

What she needs is help regulating her mind. I find meditation and yoga of use in regulating my own mind, but, again, she is a dog. I also find the imposition of routine helpful in that regard.

And so today, every time My Bad Dog's madness came upon her, I said no. I went to her and told her to follow me into my bedroom, then I pointed at her bed and told her to lie down. Every time she did as I asked. Once the desire to bark was too much for her, but instead of barking, she whimpered.

The day of mind regulating took a lot of effort from both of us. I don't like putting my work aside and getting up and going to the dog every time she barks wildly. My Bad Dog was tired. Even though she was tired, she also seemed relieved. Maybe? I don't know.

What I do know is that it is frightening to feel out of control. When a baby is crying uncontrollably, you can sense the baby spiralling into anxiety. If you know how to calm the baby, you have the experience of sensing the baby's relaxation when she realizes that someone is in charge and that everything is going to be okay.

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of days ago but just got to posting it now.

No comments:

Post a Comment