One of the traits that I see over and over in my work with dogs is that when dogs get offended, they quickly get over it and move on. Even if I do something that scares or frustrates them, they typically don’t take very long to work through their feelings, can forgive me from their hearts, and they just move on.
I work with young puppies all the way up to old dogs at times, and all of them have different life experiences. Some have been fortunate to have had great breeders and wonderful homes, and they trust humans to be kind to them. Others, like Rugby, have been through the school of hard knocks in life, and seem to regard me with a little different eye…sometimes with suspicion, but even that wary eye is often mixed with hope.
In closely working with a dog, I’m bound to accidentally step on a paw, or leash, bonk the dog by mistake, or sometimes even tug the leash too hard…forgetting that my charge is 8 pounds and not 80 pounds like the horse-sized dog I just left 20 minutes ago! It can be challenging to adjust my training styles and tension on the leash from dog to dog as I go through an average day.
Something I often tell my clients is that I can fix a whole lot of hurt feelings with cookies. Dogs just simply get over it. They don’t stay angry or hurt for long. Once I’ve apologized to them, they make up quickly and move on. They don’t remind me constantly that I stepped on their paw that one time, or cry about the time that I pinched an ear putting their harness over their head.
When my friends bailed out on me several years ago, this one was difficult for me, I’ll be perfectly honest. I just didn’t want to get over it. I did want to move on, but the “getting over it” part was really hard for me. After all, they dumped me, and made it clear that I just didn’t measure up to what they wanted me to be. That’s offensive, isn’t it? I got no apology or cookies to fix my hurt feelings. My heart also just hurt after that experience.
But I knew I wanted to forgive and move on. I didn’t want to be angry and I didn’t want to be sad, and I sure didn’t want to become embittered about humans or life. But I honestly just felt “stuck” for a long, long time. I wanted to move forward, but simply didn’t seem to be able to do it. It just took time to process through the feelings, and that’s not anything any one of us can rush through. We have to hurt until we’re done hurting and then we move on and over time, we get over it.
One of the things that I think we can really learn from dogs in this regard is that dogs don’t keep a tab. They settle up when the offense happens. They deal with the one who hurt them, at the point of the hurt, and then they kiss and make up and life goes on. I think humans tend to hang onto offenses in a file cabinet in our hearts, and we just keep adding to the file drawer, rather than settling things and keeping a short tab with others.
I remember watching my Corgi mom, Happi, interacting with her unruly puppies. Once in a while, one of them would get out of line, and she’d bring a swift correction. The puppy would shriek his apology, and Happi would quickly lick him up one side and down the other, and often play with that puppy just after she had scolded him. What a great parenting model to use!
Even when I disappoint Rugby because I won’t play or snuggle or entertain his mind 100% of the time on demand, he quickly shifts gears and finds something else to do, and just tries again later. He doesn’t seem to carry a grudge forward that he has had to ask me 3 times to play and I’m busy with Quickbooks or bills! He just says “Puh-leeze, Mama”, with those amazing eyes of his, and waits for me to tell him that yes, I’ll take a break and play for a few minutes!
What a world we could have if we humans made a practice of getting over things quickly when we have an issue with someone else. Dogs really have gotten this one right, and yet, we’re the ones who call them “dumb animals!” If that’s dumb, then call me dumb right along with them, because this is a habit I try to put into practice in my own life.