When it comes to pets we have to be very clear what we want them to do. We have to say their name, state the command, and reward if they listen, or restate if they don’t. If they continue to not listen, what do we do? We can push our expectation demanding they do what we want, but that usually just results in frustration for all involved!
If the pet is capable of doing what we ask (they are old enough, hear us, are not distracted, have had food, water, and exercise) and they just aren’t obeying, then the best thing for us to do is STOP.
Recently I was trying to get my dog to come into the house. It was cold, it had been a very long day, and I just wanted to get her fed. She has a tendency of being very high energy when I first get home. She is so excited to see me that she just races all over the yard. Often when I use the key word TOY she finds a toy and brings it to me, ushering in our evening routine. On this particular night she did not respond to her keyword and she wouldn’t come when called. I found myself getting frustrated. I was tired, hungry, and had 16 other animals to feed, and dinner to cook.
I felt my anger rising and I was on the verge of yelling at her. I wanted to grab the leash and run after her forcing her to do what I wanted. But I knew she would have thought we were playing a game and she would have just run around more. So I just STOPPED. I stopped then turned my attention to other things. When I did, she came in on her own.
Stopping is a strategy, a very effective strategy.
This is why:
When we have expectations that are not being met, we feel like we aren’t in control, which often results in feelings of frustration and anger. Our body can tense up, we may have more energy, our brain usually becomes hyper focused, and we may even feel like we can’t think clearly. This is a natural response of the body releasing neuro-chemicals to help us get moving out of the situation. Each of us can be triggered by different types of situations, but typically when a person feels out of control, a response commonly called the fight/flight response kicks in. Although this is a normal response, it can become abnormal and cause problems when directed to a person or a pet in a hurtful way.
By using the STOP strategy, we give our body the opportunity to stop releasing the chemicals that produce the fight/flight response. This allows calming neuro-chemicals to be released which helps us to feel calmer and more in control.
Next time you are feeling frustrated or angry because your pet isn’t doing what you expect it should do, STOP. Redirect your attention to another matter and if needed problem solve the situation later. Often pets end up doing what we want them to do anyway, when we let go of expectations!
Stay tuned for more Simple Strategies for Living Life Well (with Pets) when I answer questions related to cats not using the cat box and puppies wanting to eat cats.
Until then, remember to purr often, wag without hesitation, and nap in the sun at every opportunity!
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