Today at dog class, I had a great dose of “the edge of trouble”. Kathy often shares something she learned from Ray Hunt, and that has to do with working with the edge of trouble where it is, not where we wish it would be. I really resonate with this concept, and have accepted that it’s going to be one of those things that I think I understand. Then, I have another situation, and then I understand it deeper. Then, I have yet another situation, and the learning and concept goes even deeper still. And, the pattern continues. My path seems to have many of these examples on my journey of learning and progress.
I love my dog, Zukini. He has taught me many things, and is continuing to do so. Fortunately, I have found a wonderful trainer to help me help him, because he has some complex behaviors that completely stump me.
During class today, my class mate (herself a dog behaviorist) offered to let us utilize her stuffed dog to see how Zuke would react to another dog off leash. I don’t know much about his history, and have had some concerns about letting him interact with other dogs. Under the instruction from the two experts, I let go of Zuke’s leash, and observed him run at the stuffed dog. To sum up the experience, we won’t be having play dates with other dogs.
The edge of trouble was much closer than I would have liked it to be. Yet, seeing where it really was will be very helpful in planning where we go from here and how we go about getting there. I have had some pressure to just turn him loose with other dogs and “let them work it out”. I have been reluctant to do this, and now I have good reason to stay strong in my convictions and not cave because I was being considered too protective or cautious. The pet store will get along without my dog visiting their establishment for sure. (Although, the first day that I got him, we went to the pet store to buy a harness, because he could just pull me all over the place in his collar. I had to get help when I was trying to fit one to him, because Zuke would try to bite me whenever I touched his body anywhere behind his shoulders with the harness. We have many stories!)
Discovering the edge of trouble was very helpful, but it wasn’t without an emotional reaction on my part. I did have a huge wave of disappointment wash over me when I watched my dog make a bee line for the stuffed dog. There wasn’t anything relaxed or playful in his body language. I had to admit that I own a difficult dog. I love him no less, and will continue to learn more and more about him and how to help him be as well adjusted as I can, yet the disappointment was so big that I did experience that welling up feeling I get before I cry. It was an instantaneous reaction, something I experience often being a very emotional, highly “perceptive” person. (Note the reframe of sensitive that is a much more comforting fit for some of us!) Fortunately, my teacher took the time to talk with me about my dog and his situation, and my raw emotional wave passed without any tears, much less hysterical sobbing. I think it was helpful to hear that she believed that my little brown dog could have ended up living on a chain, or euthanized if we didn’t offer him our home and patience. I am so thankful to have such a good and compassionate teacher who pointed out to me how much progress Zukini has made, and how much we have grown together. Emotional wave navigated with grace.
Overall, it was helpful to find out where the edge of trouble really was. There were some uncomfortable moments for me, and it is still much better that I know more about my dog and his reactions and behaviors. Wishing the edge of trouble was somewhere else wouldn’t be good for anyone, and could have resulted in an injury. More information will help us formulate a plan to deal with the edge of trouble where it is, and, maybe, in time, allow it to move further out. This concept has helped me immensely in working with horses, especially Little Horse. Today, my dog helped me understand it, and myself a little more. I am very fortunate to have so many great teachers in my circle!