We love Bandaids. We rely on them and seek them out in, pretty much, all things.
We live in a world where business is strategically designed around these bandaids, oftentimes masked to make us feel it’s with our best interest at heart (doctors, vets, product and food-like product companies).
These, ladies and gentlemen, are your “symptom treaters”. Quick fixes. Management tools and techniques. We cover up and address only the byproduct instead of the source and root cause; focusing less on “prevention” and more on “fixing”. There’s big business in the fixing.
In the case of dogs, this comes in many forms: a bark collar for a barking dog, isolation or banishment to the bathroom, garage or the backyard, not walking or exercising the dog because of reactivity issues (though exercise is part of the solution), etc.
We all know that getting to the root cause of something isn’t necessarily an easy (or quick) task, and requires swimming through layers of other behaviors and underlying issues connected to the same root. This requires our time, patience and energy, all of which most will claim they have none of.
We live in the “Golden Age of Excuses”. A magical land where there’s a massive fear of accountability, responsibility and taking ownership:
We don’t have the time. The support. The resources.
We’re too tired and have way too much to do.
We’ve already tried “x, y and z” before and it didn’t work; what’s going to make this time any different?
We don’t know where to begin.
It’s too risky.
We can’t afford it.
We’ll do it later.
What if “x, y or z” happens?
Cultivated by our parents, peers, teachers and other influences, it’s from this place we often try sidestep addressing the very things that really matter so we don’t fail or disappoint. This is why we seek out shortcuts. Finger point. Blame everyone and everything else (except ourselves) when something doesn’t go our way. And push things off “until tomorrow”.
Bandaid + Excuses = (Very) Temporary Solution, (Very) Quick Fix, No Learning or Growth. Only Coping and Management.
Addressing + Effort = Permanent Solution, Learning, Growth, Improvement in Quality of Life for All.
Like MLK Jr said, “We won’t get to the top of the staircase without taking the stairs.”
Dogs are begging us to step up for ourselves and, in turn, for them.
Outside of medical or health issues, many neurotic behaviors originate through needs not being met, and the frustration and stress associated with this. This goes for humans as well as dogs. When we have inherent and instinctual needs going unmet and unfulfilled, neurotic and bizarre behaviors take root and begin to express themselves.
If there’s a dog that’s beginning to manifest a gnarly behavior, investigate. Ask yourself if it could be a medical issue. If any major life changes have occurred within the household as of late. Any shifts in the family dynamic. Question whether or not the dog’s instinctual needs are being or have been met (structure, leadership, daily exercise to meet and deplete the dog’s individual energy stores, biologically appropriate nutrition, effective and fair discipline, rules and boundaries, mental stimulation, socialization, companionship).
Our dogs are constantly communicating with us and sending messages, through their body language, disposition and how they’re expressing themselves through behavior. It’s up to us to learn how to translate.
If your dog is expressing something, don’t judge, label and write it off. We’re supposed to be their advocate. Take it upon yourself to figure out what’s trying to be said: “I’m uncomfortable”, “I’m in pain”, “I’m insecure”, “This makes me feel very uneasy”, “I have way too much pent up energy and I need an outlet”, “I need mental stimulation… teach me something new!”, “A lot is changing around here, please help me make sense of it all and adjust”, “I spend too much time alone.”
When it comes to your dog and any behavior you’re questioning, don’t judge the behavior. Always consider the source.