I sent out an email recently asking some questions about your dog’s behaviour and how it makes you feel, and oh my word I got some answers. (If you haven’t answered yet there’s an online form for you to fill out, there’s only a handful of questions)
When I opened that first reply I was thrilled to actually get one (I was hoping you would reply but was worried you wouldn’t), but that quickly turned to dismay when I read those heart wrenching words.
Guilt, embarrassment, devastated, anger, self-blame, where did I go wrong?
I had tears in my eyes reading on.
Before I go on I just want to say thank you for being so brave and so honest in your replies, I appreciate it more than I can say and I will be spending some time thinking on how I can best help you.
The majority of the replies have been along the same theme. And I get it. I really do. I had a German Shepherd that would lunge and bark at other dogs and if they were close enough he would raar on their neck and cover them in spit. If he was upset enough and close enough to one of my other dogs – whom he lived with happily, he would redirect on to them also. I understand the embarrassment, the panic at times, the guilt that it must be something I had done to make him this way. Oh the shame and anger when someone would tell me that my gorgeous, soft, loving dog was dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed out in public.
I get it all right. And I couldn’t let it pass without telling you that you’re wrong. It’s not your fault.
If you get nothing else from me please know this. While you are responsible for your dog, there are a myriad of factors that interplay and are forever in flux when it comes to shaping an animal’s behaviour. You are not in control of all of them, you did not cause this. It is not your fault.
I do not play the blame game when I work with people and their dogs. Even if we could say “you caused this” – which we can’t, just in case you missed it 😉 – laying blame is not helpful, it’s not productive and it puts emphasis on the wrong things – namely the past and every tiny mistake you ever made. We all make mistakes, and even if you made every mistake out there I’d still maintain that that wasn’t the only factor in why your dog does what he does.
So, while I’m not going to tell you how to feel – feelings happen, it’s not like we really control them, they just are – know this.
You are not to blame. You are not a bad owner. Even if you feel like you are.