“We have more to learn from animals than animals have to learn from us”. Anthony D Williams
An acquaintance once told me that her rescue dog had taken months to learn to bark at other dogs who were harassing her. Prior to this she had hidden behind her new human’s legs. As my opinion on this had not been sought I felt to bite down on my bottom lip, when I get on my soap box about animals I run the danger of boring people half to death! I shall attempt not to do that here!
I have been thinking of writing along these lines for a long time and in my working life as a dog behaviour expert have already done so when I wrote for Pet Dogs Magazine back in the 1990’s. What prompted me to write today is this picture I found on social media from a Donkey sanctuary.
The key thing I picked up on from the picture is trust. No matter what animal you have in your life; dog, cat, horse, donkey or even a tortoise it is important that you build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect with them. They need to know you have their back, that you can be trusted when there is a tricky situation. The case of the dog ‘learning to become aggressive’ is the perfect illustration for this. For months she hid behind the legs of the human looking for support and protection, whilst the human stepped out of the way and put her straight in the firing line. The lady in question is a lovely soul who would not willingly do anything to cause distress to her dog. However, it happened.
My work with behaviour problems in dogs and during my animal communication work the thing that I find most often is that the animal is misunderstood and labelled vicious when it is fearful, labelled stubborn when it is confused and labelled stupid when it is the human who has not taken the time and trouble to communicate to it in a way that it can understand. You can see my post about reactive dogs here.
Animals respond to situations in a way that they are genetically hardwired to do. It is up to us to listen to them, understand them so that we can make a difference to their wellbeing.
Imagine for a moment if you have a fear of something. It could be spiders, snakes the dark; whatever it is those who are not afraid would label it and irrational fear. Now pause for a moment and imagine how you would feel in these scenarios, (remember you are afraid, your heart is racing you are sweating, you may feel sick, you may want to run away or for the ground to swallow you up.) You are with your friend or partner whom you love:
- Imagine how you would feel if you are faced with your worse fear, your friend takes a sidestep and tells you; “You are on your own buddy.”
- Imagine if you felt the need to defend yourself and as you begin hitting out and screaming your friend starts hitting you and shouting at you.
- Imagine if you don’t know quite what to do and as you look to them for guidance your friend begins speaking in a foreign language that you don’t understand.
Now put yourself in the place of an animal. Animals are often put in situations that are manmade, it is our job to let them know all is well and if it isn’t that we are there to help and protect. When I think back to my times at riding stables as a child and the way we would use a riding crop on the horses to make them move on it fills me with guilt. Even then I knew it was wrong, but as a child being told to do something, by quite a formidable adult, it is just done. All essential learning for my adult life. Animals have been such great teachers for me and for those who I misunderstood in my youth I have apologised. Go gently with your animal friends, we are all souls having a physical experience, doing the best we can.
“Animals are born who they are, accept it, and that is that. They live with greater peace than people do.” Gregory Maguire