Don't Let Your Life Go to the Dogs

We’ve been a busy household this past week, busy tending to a new visitor that is. Meet Charlie, our new puppy. Charlie is a one-year-old Plott hound mix. He came to us from a local rescue, the same one who gave us our wonderful Belle.

Why did we take Charlie?

Because we have the time and the resources to be his fosters and to help him readjust to home life after a really tough start in life. And Charlie needs a lot of this TLC if he’s to be deemed adoptable again. The F2P household is pretty much the last chance at rehabilitation for this scared, confused little guy.

As we’ve been working with Charlie—and watching and reading A LOT of Cesar Millan's training materials—we’ve noticed that his progress is very much like any of us as we get used to a new environment, people and behaviours and that his success at any task is determined by how he chooses to approach it: will he trust the situation or fear it?

Dog communicate with energy, and they respond best to us when we are calm and assertive. To reach the calm state, we need first to control our human emotions, especially the ones that lead to weak energy states, like doubt, fear, or anxiety.
— Cesar Millan's Short Guide to a Happy Dog, p. 17.

I’ll admit that after day 2, and two near-sleepless nights, we were left wondering whether we would be able to handle Charlie. He seemed so far gone and his decision to bite Mr. F2P's behind on the morning after his first night was definitely not helping his situation. We finally decided, during an unexpected conversation at 3am to double down and see what happened.

His progress during the rest of the week has been nothing less than remarkable once we decided to set boundaries and create the order required to provide a safe environment he could understand and navigate. And, according to the rescue, the result has been miraculous

Note: If you’re a dog person and want to know more, see the end of the post for Charlie’s Top10 Before and After List.
A lot of people, for example, live an anxious life. They don’t realize they have a super-high level of anxiety. So we’re gonna work on really writing down how anxious you feel at the moment you wake up. There’s nothing wrong with it; the point is you learn to evaluate yourself and regulate yourself.
— Cesar Millan

His turnaround was that quick because of one fundamental reason: we were able to have Charlie come to learn from a place of curiosity and a willingness to be part of the team as opposed to one of fear and anxiety.

Are People Really Any Different?

His progress over just a few days was so amazing it got me thinking. We’re really not all that different when we come from a place of fear as opposed to one of confident calmness and interest.

We only behave in erratic ways when we’re trying to protect ourselves from unknown outside forces, from whatever it is that might hurt us in some way. And, the greater our fear and anxiety around what might not go well, the more likely we are to imagine disastrous outcomes, which leads us to behave in weird, emotional and erratic ways.

It’s almost as though fear makes it inevitable that what we fear most will happen:

  • That date with that cute person we met will be a disaster.
  • This marriage thing is hard, so we’re doomed to fail.
  • We’ll blow our chances at that new dream job.
  • We'll never lose those extra pounds.
  • We’ll fail the final examination and I won’t get our degree.
  • We’ll lose our case in small claims court.
  • We won’t successfully return a product for a full refund.
  • We won’t score the goal for our team.
  • We don’t achieve the ambitious goal we set.
  • We won’t be successful at this saving & investing thing, let alone have enough to retire. 
  • We won’t be able to successfully change careers.
  • We can’t be trusted with a difficult foster puppy.

Before Charlie could learn to be the happy puppy he’s turning out to be, he needed to believe that he was safe and that he could competently navigate the dynamics of our household. We helped him do that.

And we can do that for ourselves too.

How we approach our own learning and adapting can have a huge impact on our happiness, both in the short and longer term. It’s up to us to decide how we’re going to approach a new and/or potentially difficult situation. And we have the advantage here. Unlike dogs, we can ask for or create what we need to be successful. We can ask questions, research alternatives, seek support, along with a myriad of other actions we can take to improve our chances of success, including creating a positive mindset.

The choice is ours. Will we come at it from a place of inevitable disaster or will we go with the flow and see what happens? Will we ask for support and assistance or will we try to wade through the unknown because we feel we're not worthy of the help?

Our potential for success or failure is virtually predetermined…by us!


Charlie’s Top 10 Before and Afters, Week 1:

Before:

  1. Food aggression: Lunging at food/Belle’s dog bowl/jumping up on the counter.
  2. Growling/barking/lunging at everyone and anyone.
  3. Nipping/biting.
  4. Whining/barking all night.
  5. Jumping on people.
  6. Chewing shoes and tearing through toys.
  7. Peeing in the house.
  8. Trying frantically to find a way through the fence in the back yard.
  9. Pulling on the leash to the point of being unmanageable.
  10. Fearing his crate/not wanting to go in his crate.

After:

 Mr. F2P walking Charlie and Isabelle on Sunday. 

Mr. F2P walking Charlie and Isabelle on Sunday. 

  1. He sits and waits to be handfed. Stays out of pantry, even with door open.
  2. He still barks at people coming into the house, but all other barking is all but eliminated.
  3. There's no more nipping or biting.
  4. He sleeps all night. We don't hear a peep.
  5. He has vittually stopped jumping on anything.
  6. He chews on what he’s supposed to when he’s supposed to.
  7. He's clean in the house.
  8. He's longer trying to break out of the yard.
  9. He's walking on a slack leash and stops and sits at intersections.
  10. He stays in his crate for 20 mins at a time so far, door open, with no need to be corrected.

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