A few years ago, a concerned mom asked me to talk to her family dog about its “enthusiastic” behavior with her children. Apparently this dog, I’ll call her Sophie, would chase after her young children when they ran around the house, sometimes tackling them to the floor. During a family party with young nieces and nephews in attendance, both mom and dad became more concerned when Sophie nipped one of their little nephews in the arm during a game of tag. It wasn’t a serious injury, so not much was made of it. “It was just Sophie being Sophie.”
Later, after thinking about this incident a little more, mom and dad decided that it was probably time to do something about Sophie’s behavior. They certainly didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of Sophie nor did they want Sophie to run over their young children. As a result of their decision to get some help and guidance in dealing with Sophie, they asked me to talk to her. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll describe the conversation I had with Sophie and some of the concerns that arose as a result of this conversation.
When I called for Sophie, she very energetically ran up to me. She was very excited….so I had a hard time getting her to settle down. I asked her several times and finally, she calmed down enough for us to have a bit of a conversation. After talking with Sophie for a little while, I found her to be a very complicated dog. She was also out of control. Her thoughts and emotions were all over the place. Her view on her environment was one of constant upheaval…….she wasn’t sure who was in charge, but whomever it was, she didn’t want to listen to them….she wanted to do what she wanted to do.
I tried to tell Sophie that her wild behavior with the children had to stop. That she needed to calm herself down and listen to what her mom and dad were telling her. I knew as I was delivering this message to Sophie, that it wasn’t going anywhere. Most of the time, bad behaviors don’t change just because I tell a dog that this is what needs to happen. All I can do is point out unwanted behaviors and tell them how their humans want them to act……the rest is up to the owner’s discipline, hard work and consistency in training. What can be helpful to owners is for me to find out why their dogs are exhibiting these unwanted behaviors……sometimes by knowing why our furry friends are acting a certain way, will help us to have a better understanding of how to approach our training programs.
In Sophie’s case, the stakes were a little higher. Besides chasing and knocking down young children, she had already nipped at a young boy’s arm. When I asked her about this incident, she truly didn’t understand what she had done wrong. She wanted to play and chase…. and that’s what she did….. she had no intention of stopping. These children were her property, her playthings. Worse than this revelation was the fact that she had no respect for her mom and dad. She liked them, but would not listen to them. Sophie and her family were headed for bigger trouble. More likely than not, this out of control dog would go on to bite a child……and this time it would not be a simple nip.
In relaying the conversation I had with Sophie to her humans, I stressed to them how worried I was about this dog’s behavior, especially in light of the fact that there were so many young children around her everyday. I wanted them to know the seriousness of Sophie’s behavior and the immediacy for action on their part to protect their children from her. I know Sophie’s mom cried and became very upset……but I’m not sure she completely believed my analysis of the situation. She loved Sophie….and who among us wants to believe our beloved dog would hurt our children?
I have not kept up with what happened to Sophie. I pray that she did not hurt another person, especially a child. As I look back now on the conversation I had with Sophie, I am still left with deep sadness for the confusion and upheaval this young dog showed me. Somewhere behind all of that disjointed clutter was a sweet girl who loved her family but never learned that we don’t hurt the ones we love.
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Blessings to you and your furry friends,