We’re all born pure, open and trusting, though we don’t remain this way. We become products of society. Fashioned, shaped, molded, disillusioned, conditioned and influenced by our families and their beliefs, culture, the media, our peers, and teachers. We learn about fear. Disappointment. Pain. Negativity permeates our hearts, and we experience self-doubt. We soon reach a point where we become confused about who we are, because we’ve been trained to become someone we’re not. On a deeper level, who we’ve become totally conflicts with who we deep within. The biggest part of our life’s journey is remembering this.

We all have a special sauce we’re born with. The problem is, we live in a world that’s constantly trying to mold us into whatever it thinks we should be; and we’ve projected this onto our dogs.

When we have a shy or socially uncomfortable dog, our first inclination is to think something is wrong with them because they’re not matching up with who we think they should be. Our programming doesn’t match up to their programming.

When it comes to canine social behavior, it’s very much a skill set, and one they hopefully learned when they were in their younger, more impressionable days.

Our paradigm, however, of what their social behavior should look like often translates into something like this: dogs frolicking through lilac studded meadows, running circles around a park and playing a great game of grab-ass, or sharing a long spaghetti noodle under a starry night sky. Social behavior is simply the ability to share space with others without being reactive. That’s it. Some dogs are more introverted, some more extroverted. Regardless of where our dog falls on the spectrum, it should be honored and respected by us, and advocated for.

Practice. Repetition. Consistency. And with trusted, patient support. Helping them to work through any perceived fears and insecurities. Being mindful and aware of what they’re saying through what they’re not saying, by way of body language, facial expressions, energy. The steps we perceive to be small moving forward (e.g. a fearful dog stepping one paw forward towards the “frightful stairwell”) are huge to the one making them.

We’re all trying to make it through life the best way we know how, and simply want to be understood and accepted for who we are. It’s important we honor, respect and advocate for every individual, and not project who we think they should be.