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Tracy Courtney

Redirecting Solutions

We must begin to look deeper into our beliefs and what we think might be the best solutions to the difficulties we face with our pets. We must begin to look outside of the boxes we’ve built and begin to reverse analyze our roles in not only its solutions but in its creation. If we make a choice to begin analyzing the more simple ideas we use daily, this is a tremendous and effective opportunity to open new doors of understanding. 

Most of us are looking for “solutions” to our problems. What is implied in the word solution? Solution is past-tense. A problem is already occurring and we’re looking for a way to stop it. Do we ever stop to analyze how it got created in the first place? No, many of us don’t because we become consumed with finding ways of stopping the behaviour, not trying to understand what might have caused it, so steps can begin now to avoid a repeat of the behaviour or escalation of behaviour extensions.

What is implied in “stopping behaviour”? This is where we don’t realize that these common phrases and ideas carry subtle and often unrealized biases that are rooted in conditioned dominance, force and control. In general, trying to stop something is a direct intervention of a physical action. It negates flow, discussion, patience, compromise and understanding. It doesn’t allow for a voice from the other party, for a chance at expressing thoughts, emotions or feelings. Trying to stop something from happening is a very clear and direct form of communicating to another that their opinions don’t matter. It is a clear and direct implication that what we want is all that matters, whether we realize it or not.

Using a common topic that many search for solutions to, we will touch again on using a kennel for a dog, as has been used for examples in other articles. This example will attempt to explore some of the more common human ideas and habits surrounding how we’ve been conditioned to believe a kennel must be utilized and how we unintentionally create stress, frustration and separation anxiety in our dogs.

We tend to think of using kennels for limited applications and this is due in large part to being conditioned to believe in methods that centre on the physical attributes of behaviour only. When asked why people use kennels, the most common examples are for prevention. To stop our dogs from getting into trouble; preventing ingestion of foreign objects, preventing destruction of belongings and preventing inappropriate soiling. Can we begin to expand our current perceptions and start to consider deeper mental and emotional underlying factors as well as the physical?

One of the common problems cited with kennels is that dogs don’t like being in them and actually avoid entering. They will whine, bark and others will tear them apart. Many people will label kennels as cruel and unnecessary punishment devices as a result of the frantic behaviour being displayed and how this behaviour makes us feel. In these moments, we don’t realize that we are consumed by our own feelings and nothing else matters. These overwhelming feelings distort our ability to be rational and consider broader perspectives in these moments. This is where we need to step back and analyze why we feel as we do and how we may have actually contributed to this situation.

Typically, we consider the behaviour being displayed by our dogs but what about our own behaviour? What routines have we established before leaving and after we return home? Looking specifically at our behaviour when we return home, how many of us get excited to see our dog? How many of us lavish love and attention on our dogs when we get home? Take them outside to potty and provide treats or feed them their meals as soon as we get home? Take them for a walk, out to play or maybe for a car ride? I think many would agree that we often create an attentive, inclusive and rewarding environment when we get home.

How do we typically behave before leaving home? We are lost in our thoughts and lists of what we have to do today. Some of us, who have experienced problems with the kennel in the past will go out of our way to be quiet, to create routines that we hope will not trigger our dog to realize that we will soon be leaving without them. Some of us will feel guilt and worrisome feelings in anticipation of having to place our dog in the kennel before we leave. What messages is our own behaviour sending to our dog? Are we teaching them to look forward to going into the kennel or getting out of it?

How many of us have considered the opposite approach? To create a fun, inclusive and exciting environment prior to placing our dog in the kennel? To help them look forward to kennel time instead of making it feel like an emotional prison. To be quiet and reserved when we get home instead of prior to leaving. How many of us have placed ourselves in our dogs shoes?

We often regurgitate the phrases of others without considering possible deeper meanings of the words. Many will habitually recite phrases such as, natural instinct, following our gut or our first impulse. What if these beliefs are a major contributing factor? What if we placed effort into doing the opposite of our first impulse? Is it possible that this might open new perceptions and ideas that could change the way things have always been? What if we could move past our fear of change and take a few small steps just to see what might happen if we try doing the opposite of what currently feels normal? What interesting new insights might we find? Could it be worth a look?