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Category Archives: Laura’s Animals
The Gangster’ vs. ‘The Peaceful Pup’: Labels we give our pets
First Published in the Santa Barbara News-Press
April 11, 2018
So often we put labels on animals. Some of them sound like this: “She is aggressive.” “He is shy and was abused.” “He will run your over.” “She is neurotic and barks at everything.” “He runs off.” “She has separation anxiety.” “She’s mad when we go away and pees on the carpet.” “He hates skateboards.”
When we put these labels on our animals, they become stuck in the behavior. Now don’t get me wrong: It’s important to notice an undesirable behavior and take steps to change it. But it is also important to watch what you are saying and thinking while you are doing that. I can’t tell you how many times I have noticed people working hard on changing a behavior with training but still labeling their animals with the behavior they don’t want. I have been guilty of this myself. It takes real awareness to see it.
A few years ago, I adopted a Chihuahua mix from the Downey shelter, which is a hardcore kill shelter. Felix was scheduled to be euthanized the day he was rescued. He had been a stray for some time and wasn’t neutered. When he first came to be with me, he was food-aggressive, would snap at people when they tried to pet him, and would lunge, chase and bite fur off dogs that approached him or ran in his vicinity. I labeled him “The Gangster.” This labeled suited him to the point that the behavior would elicit chuckles from those who witnessed it. But what was I really doing?
Felix made great progress within the year after being rescued. He set appropriate boundaries around his food bowl but was not aggressive. Instead of lunging at people who tried to pet him, I taught him to go behind my legs. He does that now without needing my praise. It’s his safe spot and I won’t allow people to follow him there. Now three years later, he does allow some people to pet him. “The Gangster” still suited him with some strange dogs. The label stuck and continued to make many people laugh.
Then I realized that sometimes Felix was proud to be a gangster! No joke! He had a big grin after his naughty behavior. Oh no! By labeling him that, I was encouraging the behavior. So I stopped and allowed a different behavior to emerge. Now instead of attacking another dog or when on leash hiding behind my legs, he may come out wagging his tail and try to sniff them. Off leash, he may run away when an energetic dog runs by him instead of biting the fur off the dog’s thigh.
I asked Felix what changed. He said, “I started to realize that I could be in the moment and see things for what they are. I started to realize that you want me confident, calm and smart and I feel like I am that inside. When I acted like The Gangster, I was really a scared bully. It helps me when you visualize me being the dog you want me to be.
“I now know how to do that because I have done it with other behaviors, like learning tricks and meeting people. Life is safer and more fun than I originally thought. What helped me is when you started labeling me a “Peaceful Pup,” because that helps me feel the energy of peace. I still do “gangster” sometimes, but I try to stop myself when I feel myself moving in that direction.”
Good boy, Felix!
By being more conscious of our own behavior, we can teach our animals to be more conscious of theirs.
Want to hear what your animals have to say?
“I feel a little overwhelmed. I am having a hard time processing doing what I want to do verse doing what you want me to do.”
This definitely had to do with me not wanting him to chase those porcupines.
He will figure it out. He is my good boy. It takes great consciousness to think about changing his behavior and what it all means.
“The more I watch the more I learn. Sometimes it can be hard to just sit still and watch it all go by.”
Before dinner hang out.
Clyde Flemish Giant Rabbit, Seamora Blue and Gold Macaw, Hudson white German Shepherd, Easter Chihuaha mix I wanted to upload this video to post on my website www.ThePetPsychic.com and was going to make it private but I know there are some of you that are curious about what happens at my house. There is no animal communication in this video, just some major cuteness. *Seamora is missing feathers from having them plucked by others birds in a large aviary. They are slowly growing back. We were told they would not. She is in excellent health says her vet! 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day!
Hudson says, “You have done a lot of work and had fun along the way. Now you should enjoy yourself. Happy Mother’s day. If you’re not a mom, adopt a pet.”
Getting Over Pain
First published in the
Santa Barbara News-Press
Over the course of the last few months, animals of our area and beyond have been asking me about the fires and the mudslide. A common theme are questions about being buried. Who, when, how, what does that mean? And also, about all the helicopters in the sky. Reading them over they made me depressed. So instead of listing them here, I have asked my animals what their advice is to deal with the trauma. My animals lived through the fire and have been with me when I have spoken to people and animals that experienced the mudslide firsthand. Jubilee was evacuated while the fire was closing in on the ranch.
Luca my 7-year-old poodle says, “I spoke to a dog at doggy day care (in SB) whose dog friend was buried in mud. He told me his friend came to him in a dream. His friend said he was only scared for a moment when his house crumbled. He said the sky was filled with angels of all species. They guided the dead to Heaven. I have learned that when something bad happens there are always angels making it easy on your soul. I trust in that.”
Easter 3-year-old Chihuahua mix says, “I say play with your animals and you both will feel better. I do this all the time.”
Felix 5-year-old Chihuahua mix, “When I have memories of bad times, I force myself to think about all my friends who love me and all the fun things I do. Then the monsters in my head don’t seem so choking.”
Clyde 3-year-old Flemish Giant Rabbit says, “I find going out in the yard to dig is the best way to deal with trauma. Some people are helping to find important things in the mud. I think that is awesome.”
Ella says, “Talk with your animals about what happened so they understand it. When I am confused, I get more stressed. Before this mom, I peed around the house when I was stressed. Now I understand, and I pee in the box. If your animals are being naughty, talk with them.”
Seamora 26-year-old Blue and Gold Macaw says, “I had to go to Menagerie bird store during the fire evacuations. I was in awe at the amount of people who got strong and cared to help. Pay attention to the strength inside of you and others. Be in awe of yourself.”
Jubilee 7-year-old Warmblood/Appy mare says, “I fight when I go through trauma. I fight hard but sometimes I fight too much and that messes me up. I am working towards trusting others to help me.”
Hudson 3-year-old white German Shepherd says, “I think the best thing people can do when they are going through trauma is help others. Many people suffer. It helps to be useful. Know yourself and your thoughts and send love to the world around you. See beauty where ever you look. Life is all in your attitude.”
Want to hear what your animals have to say?
Jubilee got introduced to the herd today! This makes me so happy!
Every horse should live like this!
Thank you, Katie @renegadeequine for taking care of my girl!
Felix is stylish during these cold mornings. These alpaca sweaters are amazing! They keep him warm, can be washed and last years of rough barn dog wear.
Felix says, “It doesn’t hurt my armpits, it’s loose around my neck, it’s super warm even in wind and everyone says I look great!”
Thank you @bobbieglue for making such awesome sweaters!
Want one for your dog? BobbieGlue’s shop on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/BobbieGlue http://etsy.me/1SwKYzV
The Pack hanging out and catching some shade. Hudson has his #ruffwear cooling vest on! Easter, Hudson, Luca and Felix
She says, “When the wind blows through this valley you can smell lots of animals and fire too. I’m sad for the animals in that fire smell.”
#whittierfire #ruffwear #whistlepettracker