Hard-time helpful Mantra
"When someone is giving you a hard time, sometimes they are having a hard time."--Unknown
This is my mantra and it has been a go-to concept for me for years. I can't even remember when/where I learned this little tid-bit. I could have heard it when I was learning to drive transit buses in driver training when a teacher was advising how to handle difficult situations that always arise with passengers. Doesn't matter where I learned about this helpful piece of advice, I have used it in all situations that come up in life from raising my kids to handling horses and dogs or dealing with someone cutting in line or handling frustrations in traffic when people seem to have no clue how to drive.
I most recently use it to handle Foxy, a sweet little Staffordshire Terrier-mix who has a strong sense of self-preservation and a narrow comfort zone. Foxy's go to behavior is to just freeze in place. Some days she wants to walk briskly along, stopping to sniff and before we know it we've walked a mile all the way to the top of the lane. Other days for no apparent reason, Foxy puts on the breaks. She maybe sees or hears or smells something different, so we just stop. I don't let Foxy walk back towards home but rather allow her to go in any other direction and I wait. She checks the air, looks around, makes eye contact with me. I remain steady and reassuring, I look in the direction she looks then look back at her. Soon her tail goes up, her head lowers a bit and we are walking again.
Foxy's unease is real to her and giving her the support to work thru it allows us to walk every day as far as time allows.
Now, I am not a trainer, and don't even pretend to have dog behavior expertise. I believe I am lucky. All I have is common sense and compassion and I also like to believe that my mantra might come thru a little to de-escalate situations, or at most not make things worse. Most of the time a tiny sliver of understanding is all that is needed for everything to work out.
As Winnie and I struggle with buried searches in AKC Scent Work, I have recently evaluated her behavior and tho it is hard to recognize because Winnie is such an enthusiastic odor driven sniffer, if she is having a difficult time and I am clueless as to how to support her.
Once again, I am relying on luck and focusing on not making things worse. Fortunately, Winnie is very forgiving of my short-comings as I play by the seat of my pants the part of "handler". I am also cutting myself some slack, after all, I should give myself the same consideration. It's not like I am trying to have a hard time but I am having a hard time. We both are.
So, I will do what Foxy does and put on the breaks til I feel comfortable enough to move forward again. I will let this be an opportunity to hopefully boost my knowledge as handler so I can be a better teammate.