Monday, April 13, 2009


Have you ever thought about the way humans and dogs deal differently with contrast or unpleasant situations in their lives?
Humans love to find reasons why bad things happen to them or to others. When they are embarrassed about a mistake or when the outcome in a situation is not what they expected, blame can be a convenient diversion. Humans have tendencies of dwelling and chewing on the bad things that have affected them. They continue to hold their focus on those thoughts throughout the day - analyzing and replaying the situation over and over again and only totally letting it go when they go to sleep at night. However, then they don't sleep well because that stress on their body won't let go. 
We could actually learn a lot from our dogs by observing the way they deal with contrast and unpleasant things. Dogs so cleverly divert their attention from negative situations towards things that are more reinforcing and pleasurable. That could be something as simple as a sniffing a blade of grass on the ground. They always know how to effectively shift their focus from the negative to those things that are much more appealing. And even when they are immersed into something fun, they continue to challenge themselves by seeking out things that might be even better. When something bad happens to them, they immediately move on without blame and naturally turn away and look for something more interesting. Dogs expect good things to happen to them. But when they find themselves in a predicament, they don't complain - they just keep looking for that expectation of all that is good.  And the wonderful thing is that they do eventually find it. 
When life brings contrast or things we don't want into our view, we have a choice.  We can choose to look at what we perceive as negative and continue to view it that way or we can be like our beloved canines and find a way to look at contrast differently.  If it makes you feel bad, then find something else to think about or try to think about that contrast in a different way.  
I remember a very long time ago when I used to get very upset when I would see someone driving a truck with a dog that was loose in the back.  Whenever I would see a dog running from side to side in the back of a truck going down the road in front of me, I would start getting angry at the driver. How could they risk the life of that dog?  I didn't want to be the one to see the dog getting thrown from the truck.  The entire situation would consume me and I hated the feeling that would come over me when I would see something like this. So, I decided to try to find a different way to look at it so I would not have to deal with that negativity.  I decided that the likelihood of that dog being thrown from that truck was very low.  I told myself that the person driving the truck obviously loved the dog because they were taking them along and the dog was not left at home kenneled or tied up. When I decided that I was the source of my negativity and by looking at the situation differently, I could feel better - well, it was the beginning of a new personal challenge that I took on. Whenever I am upset, I take the challenge of trying to find a different way to look at the situation.
One of my favorite quotes is one by Dr. Wayne Dyer:  "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."


  1. Lovely, Nancy, thank you. Not only a reminder and inspiration to find the good in things, but as a bonus - a new way of looking at dog's displacement behavior. Humans often find the dog's displacement behavior so frustrating but if they could look at it in this light it might effect them differently.

  2. I like the analogy you gave of the dogs riding loose in the back of the truck as I would have the same negative feelings that you did. Now I can choose to look at this differently. Jan

  3. This is a very thoughtful post Nancy. I like your ability to mix and match what you have learned from the dogs and apply it to less intelligent critters (like me). You are very insightful. I am trying to apply your advice to my life but it isn't easy to teach a very, very old dog new tricks. Thankfully I have my female Yellow Lab to reinforce your wisdom. Dagney loves every minute of life and I am so lucky that she came to live with us. She inspires me to live life more like her.

  4. I love your ability to blend what you have learned from dogs into advice for less intelligent critters (like me). This post shows a great deal of wisdom on your part. My female British Lab inspires me (as your writings do) to depart from my previous training and enjoy each moment of each day. Dagney bursts from her crate each morning with unbridled enthusiasm and re-enters with glee at the end of the day. I am grateful to have both of you helping with my continuing education.