Living in the Moment

Earlier I mentioned that we tend to expect dogs to think like us. Dogs like most animals have a completely different relation to time than we do. DOGS LIVE IN THE MOMENT. I can’t stress enough how important it is for us to understand that. We should also learn from this, and worry less about the future and don’t clinch to unpleasant things from the past. Ultimately the moment is the only reality there is. Dogs don’t look into the future or think about it. They don’t regret the past or think about it. They certainly do re-act to experiences they had in the past, like, if a dog has been hit with a stick, he will fear any stick in the hand of a human, but when there is no stick around he won’t think of it. An abused person may constantly think about experiences, animals certainly don’t.

Again: Dogs only perceive the very moment. When we start to understand this, we will approach our dogs differently in situations where correcting is required. Your dog learns only in this very moment thru cause and effect. Which means that when your dog tears the garbage bag apart and you don’t notice it until later, the dog learned in this moment that this worked for him and he may repeat the act. There is no use correcting your dog, if you don’t catch it in the act. If on the other the hand you catch the dog in that moment and correct him with a firm “NO”( never scream, just firm voice) the dog will experience an immediate reaction to his action, and he will learn that what he did is not acceptable.

That is how your dog learns by cause and effect, in the moment. Please remember that no dog willingly miss-behaves, he tears the garbage apart because it contains something that smells great. Make sure to put the garbage in a place where the dog can’t get to it. Set up your house and yard so your dog won’t fail (“fail” in your human eyes).

We have to be aware that we can’t project our own emotions onto the dog. In our example your dog will not “regret” that it tor the garbage apart, or a beaten dog will not seek “revenge”. Even “jealousy” is debatable. Don’t we all love our Disney movies, but the way the animals are characterized screws up reality.

Here two more examples:

Example 1:

A dog steals a piece of meat from the counter but the owner doesn’t realize it right away until the dog lies down on its bed. If the dog gets punished now, just even with harsh words alone, it will think his human is unhappy with it because it has lain down—which will be very confusing for the dog. A dog has to be caught taking the meet, in order to show him that this is not acceptable. Again, all it takes is a firm “NO”. What in our eyes is steeling food, in the dogs mind is normal behaviour. To take whatever food comes available is normal survival behaviour for any animal. Same as with the garbage, make sure to set things up so your dog succeeds. Always make sure your dog can’t reach your food and teach your family about it.

Example 2:

Often people punish their dog for responding slowly or not at all when called. They do scold him once he finally came. To the dog this means that he is being scolded for actually coming to the owner. Every time your dog comes to you it needs to be praised, no matter if he is slow or late, because to the dog only that very moment when he comes to you counts. Call your dog once and only once and when she comes no matter when, praise or reward her. This might be against our nature, because if our child comes home late, we will talk to the child, and his or her late coming may have consequences. But this doesn’t work in the dog’s mind. Coming to you is always wanted behaviour and needs to be positively acknowledged, which is easiest done with a friendly voice like” good boy”. Coming to you has to be the best experience for your dog ever. I will talk more about this in the chapter “Recall”.

A word about punishments: punishing or correcting a dog is a state of mind. If your intention is to correct your dog, it will accept it or learn to accept it as such. But if your intention is to punish the dog, it will more likely have a traumatic impact. So always stay calm and correct with calmness, which is crucial to being successful in the relationship with your dog.

No dog should ever be punished, hit, locked away or chained up. They do not make the connection as to why they are locked or chained. Hitting a dog is cruel and unacceptable and can trigger fear and aggression, and with loud aggressive shouting all you are doing is displaying weakness and insecurity to the dog. If, for example, two dogs are growling at each other, and you shout at them aggressively, you might encourage a fight, because you may just fuel the aggression.

To live in the moment is a dog’s natural state of being. Spending time with them can definitely make our lives more positive. Think how entirely present they are, they can bring us to that state as well. I think one of the most beautiful things of a dog’s nature is, that they can look at you without judging you and with total acceptance. Yep, we can learn a lot from our fantastic furry companions.

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