Bark Less, Wag More!

So, somehow our farm has become the place for animals that no one else wants. Well, I guess someone paid for the Llama, but I don't think it was very much, right?

Like a while ago, "the farm" adopted a female Lab, which had like 11 pups. I say it like that, because lets face it, when a big dog like that enters the scene, it doesn't matter who's it really is, it kind of becomes everyone pet, or in this case, problem.

The Lab, or as we've been known to call it "That Damn Brown Dog" was abandoned near a work site. Some of the other farm dogs got here more or less the same way. People are nice, dogs look rough, we have a farm. Farms need dogs, right?

Well, anyway, the pups all have homes now, and rumor has it there is a new home for the momma Lab too. None too soon, really. It loves chasing cats. We have lots of cats, so no problem there, really, but we're kind of hoping it doesn't start eating Mom's Poms, which are about cat size right? Poms get expensive.

So, its a Lab, with a messed up background. Labs are pretty protective of their own homes, fiercely loyal and loving dogs. Now she has a home to protect, the problem is she doesn't quite realize that she lives in the other trailer, on the other side of the yard, and she's not supposed to be barking at us over here! Or the other dogs, or the cats, or the horses, or the Llama.

Today, after my walk in the hayfield, I was filling coal pails, and Spotty, another rescued, formerly abused dog comes over to say Hi. So I put down the shovel and petted her for a while. Spotty is extremely head shy, even reaching to pet her and she'll duck or just lay right down.

Miss Lab comes charging over, barking, hair up on the back... sigh.

So I keep petting Spotty, I'm kneeling down on one knee, and I put my hand out for the Lab. A couple things here that I've learned. I'm down on the dogs level, nearly eye to eye, so I am not as intimidating. I'm putting my hand out, palm down, kind of relaxed, not trying to grab her, just letting her come up to me and sniff.

She half circles me a few times, barking, hair still up, I keep an eye on her but leave my hand out there, and pet Spotty. Didn't take long at all and the lab was right up to me, sniffing my hand.

Now might be a good time to mention I was... on edge. Not quite scared, but ready. And the shovel wasn't very far away, just in case right?

Two quotes come to mind, the first one I just happened to read in an email this morning:

"Trust that still, small voice that says, This might work and I'll try it."
-- Diane Mariechild


and the second one you've probably heard before:

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
Theodore Roosevelt


But what if we could put down the stick too? Its hard to look friendly when you are holding a stick, right?

Deep down, I was scared of the dog, the dog was scared of me. This was a no win situation.

When you are scared, or angry, or in pain, your brain is closed to the possibilities. All you can really think of is escape or relief, fight or flight. Instinct. The "reptilian brain" takes over. It can happen so fast your "concsious" or "higher" brain doesn't even get a chance to think. Kill or be killed. Hold on to what you have. Avoid risk at all cost.

So what if you could just turn that off, switch your emotion to something more positive? Not go into instinct. Take a risk. Put your hand out, and just see what happens. This might work. Breathe. Put down the stick.

I think Dogs are very intuitive. They read body language. People think they can smell fear. Unless you just crapped your pants, I don't think so. But maybe!

It wasn't more than a few minutes and she let her guard down, started nuzzling me, I was petting her, and then she put her nose right to my nose. After that, I was one of the pack :) There's something kind of unreal about going nose to nose with a big dog. Trust.

Soon, I had to get inside to start working. Kind of hated to leave, ya know?

Well, it all got me thinking about stuff when I sat down to write.

The first thing that came to mind:

"The secret with women is patience, a snow hand, scratch them behind the ears, and rub their butts. If they bite or the hair stands up too much, just slow down. Pretty soon they'll be licking your face"

Hey, it works with dogs, you're on your own beyond that! I was going to lead with that, but didn't want to lose all my readers in the first paragraph! Figure by now you've invested some time in reading this, you might stick around to get the lessons!

Then I really started thinking, and came up with what I think is some good stuff.

The Internet Marketing crowd talks about Social Proof. Instead of me telling you how great I am, and how amazing my new widget is, I have a few good testimonials, of real people who tell you, in their words, how great I am. In my example today, the dog Spotty seemed to think I was ok. Spotty let me pet her, she wagged her tail, she even made happy dog sounds, and she was completely relaxed. Heck, she lays down at my feet. The Lab knows Spotty. They chase cats together. They eat from the same bowl. So any "Know, Like, and Trust" that Spotty has for me is... Transferred! Its Brilliant!

How about Credibility, Edification, and Introductions? If I walked up to a strange dog, all by myself, I'd stand pretty good chance of getting bitten, mauled, and dragged off for a tasty snack! Hey, I eat good food and get some exercise, I hope I'd be tasty! But because Spotty knows me, she can introduce me to all the new players in the trailerhood. The lab went from barking fiercely, to wagging tail, to sniffing, licking, and following me around in about 4 minutes. All thanks to Spotty. Spotty gets a doggy treat for that.

How about Risk and Reward? I've had a hostile non relationship with the Lab since she first got here. Prior to that, I liked labs, have had good experience. Was tempted to take one of her pups when they were getting given away. Finally, I decided it was up to me to try to be nice, and just put my paw out there, and let her sniff me. That's always a risk, you could get bitten. Labs got big mouths, it might even hurt right? But its always easier being friends!

Meet people on their level. This is a big one I think. If you look at people from a dogs point of view, we tower over them. We go around all winter wearing hats and gloves and thick jackets. That makes us look weird, it masks our scents, it makes us very untrustworthy I think, from the dogs point of view. So get into a position where you're approachable. Maybe take off your mask, and be real. Just be real.

People are scared, so they bark or bite. I think I'll leave this one short, you can fill it in yourself.

You gotta be willing to make the first move. Put your paw out there and shake.

Sometimes you just need to be patient, let them adjust to you. A lot of people have been through hell in the last few years. Maybe they'll snap at you, because its easier than taking a few minutes to be kind. Do it anyway.

Sometimes you just get a feeling, that its going to be ok. If you go in with an open mind, a smile, and maybe a few doggy treats in your pockets, who knows how many friends you can make?

I heard the Martina McBride song - "Anyway" on Facebook a couple days ago. Made me think... "You might get bit. Put your hand out there anyway."

Bark Less, Wag More!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2011-03-14 17:45:23