It’s been said that dogs "live in the moment."
This is different than what we do. We think about what happened yesterday and plan what we’re going to do tomorrow. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t. They certainly remember things that have happened but they don’t think about yesterday or plan for tomorrow. They react to what is happening right now.
Here’s an example of living in the moment.
Right now my dog is just lying on the floor next to me. If I say “Let’s go for a walk” he’ll be up and on his way to the door and wait for me to get his leash. He wasn’t thinking about a walk, but he’ll be happy to go on one when I mention it.
Dogs live in the moment and they react to what’s happening now and what happens now can trigger memories. Once that happens they react to the memory.
They are very consistent.
This is the neat part about dogs living in the moment. They react to who we are right now. We can change their behavior quickly and easily by changing how WE behave.
Suppose my dog gets all excited at the prospect of going on a walk. We get the leash and he’s waging his tail and running in circles all excited. There’s a good chance that we made the idea of going on a walk exciting to begin with by excitedly saying, “Come on Rover let’s go out for a walk, you want to go for a walk, come on lets go. Let’s go, come on Rover.” This way of enticing Rover initially got him excited about going on a walk. Since we kept it up a few times the excitement is now built in (programmed.) Mention walk and Rover is happy and excited and his actions are predictable.
We do the circles with him trying to get the leash on him. These behaviors are ingrained in both us and him. What if we change what we do? What would happen if we get the leash and just stand still? What if we don’t chase Rover around and around? Make sure you take your patience with you the first few times. If he starts to make a game of it by running around just stand up straight and wait. Don’t chase him around.
It took a little while but if you were patient and didn’t engage in the game of chasing him to put the leash on, Rover settled down, came over and let you put the leash on. So even though Rover has been silly at the door in the past, he reacted to who you were right now, not to who you were previously.
If there are other behaviors that WE change any guess as to Rover’s reaction? Right! He’ll change. If we don’t change what we do, what are the chances Rover will change on his own? Well he might when he’s an old dog and can’t get around as well but who wants to wait that long?
By understanding Rover and how he thinks and learns and by understanding your part in his learning process you can change his behavior even if he’s been doing something for a long time. Old dogs, even Rover, can learn new tricks, but only if we can.
You got Rover because you envisioned a certain relationship. If you don’t have the relationship you want it’s not Rover’s fault. He’s a dog and will always act like a dog. We’re people and we’re the only ones who can make the conscious decision to change our behavior in order to change his.
When you change your behavior, Rover WILL respond to the NOW you. After all he’s in the moment. You already know the result…
Happy Dogs = Happy Families.