Does your pet seem to have selective hearing during training sessions? Do you sometimes see a certain look in your pet’s eyes, but then tell yourself you must be imagining things? Have you caught yourself using words like “sweet” or “stubborn” to describe your pet’s behavior or personality? Could you be underestimating your pet? Animal intuitive Shannon Cutts talks about pet smarts vs people smarts.
“Sometimes he looks at me, and he has this certain look in his eyes. Like he is almost challenging me.”
The speaker? My (late) dad. The topic of conversation? Our dachshund, Flash Gordon.
I knew what Dad was talking about. I had seen that look as well – the rebellious, stubborn, frustrated look of a determined dachshund contemplating his options.
But I didn’t want to admit to Dad that the look was real. I was afraid he would get mad at Flash and this would cause the dynamic between them to deteriorate yet again.
This was a complicated situation that never did fully sort itself out before Dad passed.
And that means it is a situation I inherited when I later temporarily moved in with Mom to help out with all the things that needed to be done and dealt with in the wake of Dad’s death.
Since that time, Flash and I have made a lot of progress. (Animal communication works, I tell ya!)
And yes, it has taken some weeks to see any significant forward motion, but the breakthroughs have been worth it. For example….
No more jumping up onto our laps….or trying to anyway….while we’re taking our meals on trays in the family room. No incessant begging when I’m in the kitchen…..now, Flash mostly relocates on his own to the designated red carpet during meal prep and consumption.
There is less barking to go out in the back yard five seconds after he just came in….and much less pretending he has sudden onset hearing loss when he hears unwelcome words like “stay” or “heel.”
This all sounds like fairly run-of-the-mill dog training stuff, I realize. But it wasn’t accomplished through traditional dog training methods. I don’t know how to train a dog. But I do know how to communicate with one. And the first thing I always tell Flash Gordon when yet another inappropriate or unwelcome behavioral issue crops up is this.
“Flash, I know how smart you are. So I know you understand what I want and need you to do. And I know you know the difference when you choose not to do it.”
The thing is, our pets really are that smart. They are. When I remember this, I don’t have to be a dog trainer to achieve desirable adjustments in our relationship dynamic. I just talk to Flash and treat him like he is my equal. More simply put, I forget he has fur. I don’t really care whether he looks like me or like a dog or like something else. I give him credit for his high intelligence, emotional breadth and depth, independent will and wishes, intentional choices and actions – all the same things I give myself credit for.
This puts us on equal footing when we are working out the mechanics of our relationship. It saves me from having to “train” him (not that dog training is a bad thing – far from it – I just don’t know how to do that and luckily I know another way that can achieve the same or even better results). And it gives Flash the credit he is due for how smart, motivated and aware he is.
Here is an example. I have very low tolerance for eating under scrutiny. Flash likes to sit in front of anyone who is eating anything and stare and stare at them. Some people (like my mom) don’t find that bothersome at all. But it drives me nuts. Maybe it is the people-pleaser in me who feels compelled to ask “would you like some?” (of course he would!) or the past history of an eating disorder that feels judged for what I’m eating or how much of it I’m eating.
Regardless, I’ve tried and I can’t seem to just ignore him like my mom so easily does. So I’ve had to negotiate with Flash about his behavior while I’m preparing and eating my meals. This includes conversation through animal communication and action through setting boundaries around where he can sit while I’m making and eating my meals.
When I first arrived at Mom’s house, he would nuzzle my bare legs, nearly trip me as I walked, follow me back and forth and back and forth from counter to pantry to frig and stare relentlessly if I was chewing or drinking anything.
Now, he mostly either flops down on the kitchen floor a few feet away from me or walks on his own over to the red carpet and sits down until I’m done eating. Every time he “forgets” all about the boundary I have set, all I have to do to him is say “don’t beg” and he suddenly remembers.
Ultimately, I guess what it all boils down to is that I don’t underestimate Flash anymore. I don’t give him the benefit of a doubt. There is no “oh he’s only a dog” or “he doesn’t know what I’m asking him to do.” He knows. He senses my requests and intentions on so many levels. He sees my mental pictures, feels my emotions, hears my words, intuits from my body language. We are always communicating and neither one of us is confused about what we’re talking about.
So I thought I would just ask the question maybe no one has ever asked you before – are you underestimating your pet? Are you downplaying their intelligence, awareness, active participation in the dynamic between you?
Are you giving them benefit of a doubt when they exhibit bad behavior because they are a different species?
The question is worth asking, I believe. Why? Because slowly but surely, our world is equalizing. We have to equalize – to get on the same level playing field – to experience life as equals – if we want to save this planet we all call home.
We have to work together and the only way we can do that effectively is if we start deeply respecting our fellow beings and giving them credit for their smarts and contributions. We need to start noticing all the ways our fellow interspecies planet-mates excel at things we suck at and how their intelligence is different from our own but otherwise totally equal.
I envision a world where all animals – our own species and all the other species – truly live as equals. We truly see, hear, experience and respect one another on every level. Humans are not in charge or dominant. Rather, we are collaborators in creating relationships with mutual benefits and blessings that takes us far away from training and much closer to connecting in conversation to smooth out differences and achieve interspecies harmony.
Are you confused about why your pet is acting a certain way or why traditional training methods are not giving you the result you want or need? I can help.