Finn gave me this glorious gift, an appreciation for the sweet, twittering conversations of birds fluttering from limb to limb. I glance down to see Lil’ Big Head’s glistening amber-hazelnut eyes before his nose tugs him to investigate the myriad of smells left behind from squirrels, school children, and other dogs on one blade of grass, over there. Gavin must get to that particular stalk.
And, my attention is drawn to the understated beauty of nature waking up from winter, stark, ashen tree limbs punctuated by cashmere puffs lazily rolling across the crystal blue sky.
As I look back to Gavin, I think of how amazing it would be to watch, listen, and observe our dogs without the need to change anything. If we’re open, there may be a valuable lesson that our dogs can teach us when we stop putting pressure on our pups to be better, better, and better.
Slow down. An all too familiar scene in my house is Gavin stretched out on the daybed in my sunroom, occasionally drifting out of sleep to watch me stumble off my yoga mat from an attempted headstand or slay the heinous dragon, the vacuum cleaner. The latter, a job Gavin took very seriously when he first came home. Sometimes, Lil’ Big Head just looks at me with his eternal-puppy-face and copper-bedroom-eyes. I’m a sucker. I can’t resist my dog.
I often stop what I am doing to snuggle with him for just a minute. Then, an hour later, my arm’s asleep because Gavin’s giant head has been resting there while I rubbed his belly and indulged in a good book. I always resume my day with a clearer head, restored attitude, and deeper compassion when I stop and hang out with my dog, rather than racing around to complete chores that will inevitably need repeated tomorrow.
Let them be. When we focus on training our dogs, especially in distracting environments, we’re constantly talking and flailing about. Our dogs are already on sensory overload with the sights, smells, and sounds that we’re constantly competing with as we utter over and over, “leave it, leave it, leave it.” So, adding to the noise can be particularly overwhelming to our pups. And exhausting for us.
In a safe space, watch your dog.
Does sniffing every blade of grass on the parkway make his tail wag with such enthusiasm that his butt wiggles too? Does a glance, even a few feet away, of a person walking past make him smile so bright that you’re reminded those big teeth could bite and hurt you, but they don’t. And, you’re grateful. Does walking faster, a little bit ahead of you, but safely and not on a tight leash, make your pup prance so gleefully that you feel a giant smile growing across your face?
Breaks are good and incredibly valuable for training and to your relationship.
One of Gavin’s greatest joys is to sit on my lap at the park with both of his Chuck-It balls in his mouth and watch the world go. With Finn, I learned to appreciate the walk, walk, walk. But, those moments in the park where I’m doing absolutely nothing, Gavin, rejuvenate me. And, when I need to help Lil’ Big Head through a moment of worry, I’m ready because I stopped for a moment to rest.
We all want our dogs to be well-behaved. Teaching them what to do is extremely important for their safety and ensuring we all enjoy an amazing quality of life together.
But, sometimes, if we listen to them, we might find a new greatest joy in life. My cuddly, lazy dog has certainly taught me to slow down. And, I’m thankful.