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Author Topic: Dark Alleys and the four Fs
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Post Dark Alleys and the four Fs
on: January 8, 2017, 04:18

<a href="http://www.friendsforlifedogtraining.com/blog/dog-training/09/i-am-not-a-bad-dog/attachment/dennis-and-meika-2-4/" rel="attachment wp-att-209"><img class="size-thumbnail wp-image-209" src="http://www.friendsforlifedogtraining.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/dennis-and-Meika-2-120x150.jpg" alt="This is my girl Meika." width="120" height="150" /></a>

You might ask what in the heck does a title like " dark alleys and the four f's have to do with dog training"

Years ago in another life I used to be a martial arts instructor in the Portland Oregon area and when we moved to Central Oregon I had a small school I taught out of my home as a way of keeping in the sport which I had loved for most of my life.  There was a question I would ask some of my students which went something like this. " if given the choice to go down a dark alley or a lighted pathway which one would you choose?" Most of the students I asked that question responded with "of-course I would choose the lighted pathway".  Occasionally there was always one that would say they would choose the dark alley.  I always found that to be a bit crazy because if given the choice why would you choose to put your life in danger if you clearly had another choice.  Most of us know why men and women join the military, to serve their country, to travel and to learn some pretty unique skills as well as belonging to a brotherhood and sisterhood of a higher calling.  OK what does all of this have to do with dog training?  I was inspired to write this by one of our long time students who's dog recently was surprised by someone in a dark outfit carrying a shovel.  I might add this person was on his own property and as fate would have it the two met in this dogs dark alley.  I told my client that this time of the year people look differently than other times of the year, we wear big coats, hats, and our glasses get dark to protect our eye's from the unrelenting snow we have had this year and because of that snow we carry stuff like shovels, we use loud equipment like snow blowers and for some dogs this is just too much.  I tried to convince my client that under the circumstance this was perfectly normal even though her dog and the man in the dark snow suit knew each other and have interacted as friends many times and that the man just looked different and her dog was surprised by the sudden change in the environment.  In other words this dog was startled and my client was not prepared for her response.

The more we talked about what happened I think she realized that her dog was surprised, the environment suddenly changed and the person that she knew looked totally different then he did in the summer.  I also told her that what her dog was showing was perfectly normal and that it happens to humans all the time.  Most of have been startled and downright scared in our lives unless we have lived our lives in a completely protected environment which I am not sure exist.  I told her that when confronted with an emergency we will do one of the four f's we will Fight, we will Flee, we will Freeze or we will fool around which can look like pretty much anything out of the context of normal behavior, we might start laughing uncontrollably, we may cry uncontrollably, we may fidget or something that is not compatible with what startled us.  animals are no different they just show it in different ways, a startled animal may fight, they might run away, they might freeze so whatever scared them will not kill them or they might just start sniffing the ground, spin,, jump uncontrollably as a fool around behavior.

We are equipped with very complex nervous systems, one is called the Parasympathetic and the other is the sympathetic nervous system.  <span class="st" data-hveid="39" data-ved="0ahUKEwjc7tyJ0LHRAhXlqlQKHcX_DQsQ4EUIJzAC">The <em>parasympathetic nervous system</em> is one of three divisions of the autonomic <em>nervous system</em>. Sometimes called the rest and digest <em>system</em>, the <em>parasympathetic system</em> conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.</span> The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight or flight response. When we make the decision to go down that dark alley even though we know that there might be a possible chance that something might go very wrong, it's not until that something that goes very wrong happens does our sympathetic system takes over and in come the four f's.  I myself am thankful for both of these nervous systems as they keep us safe, they help us relax, if we need to fight they allow that to happen and if we need to run away they allow that to happen as well.  Imagine if we were not equipped with these amazing parts of our brain.  Could you imagine a life where you were incapable of feeling fear, there are people like that that suffer with a genetic disorder called William's syndrome.  Now that would be downright scary.  You could walk to the very edge of a 3500 foot cliff and feel nothing resembling fear, you might engage in pretty crazy behavior like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute or go swimming in a swamp full of man or woman eating alligators.  No thank you,I like my fear or at least the ability to recognize it for what it is as fear keeps us safe or at least paying attention.  It does seem though when a dog shows fear they are automatically labeled aggressive or defective like there must be something wrong with them when what they are afraid of is very real to them just like our fears are very real to us.  Yes fear can lead to aggression just like frustration can but I try and look at the circumstances surrounding that fear and not judge the animal or person for showing it as it is a perfectly normal response.  Lets face it we live in a very scary world, we are bombarded with death and destruction on TV and social media, it's everywhere.  I may be way off but I do think as a race we have become desensitized to it because it is in our faces every day and is hard to escape.  We can watch a terrorist kill 50 people and yes we are shocked but then a week later it is almost forgotten by most until the next bad thing happens. Our dogs though are not as exposed to all of this as we are and are much more sensitive to changes in the environment and yes they get scared, I think we should ask ourselves the next time our dogs are surprised by a stranger or another dog coming around the corner and they react in a way that under different circumstances  were allowed to have some kind of a warning about the dog or stranger so they could not have such a harsh reaction.  Are we over reacting to a perfectly normal response from that dog.  I think in some cases we are.  In conclusion, if you choose to take your dog down that dark alley whatever their dark alley might be be prepared for one of the four f's and hopefully choose the lighted pathway the next time.

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT KA.  CBATI.

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