Friday, May 15, 2015

One Of Our Fur-Kids Doesn't Like Crowds...And That's Okay.


This August we'll be celebrating 3 years with our Coco bug. Coco's story is quite remarkable for so many reasons. Not a day goes by that we don't thank our lucky stars. The universe and fate worked their magic and he became a part of our family. Despite his physical and emotional issues, he made a complete recovery.

Well, some might say, almost...

Despite our best efforts, several attempts at training and redirecting, Coco has never warmed up to crowds, excessive noise or an atmosphere where there's a lot of excitement. If we're watching a movie and a scene plays out with excessive yelling, like an argument, he barks. On occasion, when Lisa and I squabble and our voices escalate, he'll bark. He becomes scared and nervous.

In the beginning, quite a few "experts" (insert sarcastic tone when reciting the word expert) came forth with their two-cents.

"He'll come around. Give it time." 

"Put him in doggy day care. A few days of socialization will do the trick."

"You can gradually get him acclimated to social scenes. He'll adjust."

"Start bringing him to a dog park. Once he's around other dogs, he'll be fine. You'll see."

While I have a deep & profound respect for people who have years of training and experience under their belts, and my brain soaks up any knowledge they'd like to share, those who need to blatantly throw "I'm an expert" in my face never cease to irritate me.  Self-righteous personalities don't go far with me. Aside from that, their slew of advice left us feeling inadequate. Like it was our fault we couldn't sway our pup to crave the crowd scene.

After about a year, someone with over 2 decades of experience, said quite simply, "If he doesn't like certain environments, so be it. You're not going to change that. He's a happy dog just the way he is." It made a world of sense. Certain environments don't make him happy so why force it?

I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she asked, "What type of environment makes you nervous and unhappy?" I had to think for a moment. Large, crowded, enclosed venues. The ones where you're packed in like sardines and the exits are far away. I get nervous. Irritable. I can't focus. I find it hard to breathe.

Once I revealed that tidbit of information, the next question was presented.

"Is there anything that would change your dislike for that type of environment?"

"No." I've tried. 

Finally, the last question...

"How often do you put yourself in that type of situation or environment."

"Never. Or, at least I really try not to."

Okay then. Point taken. If I make a conscience effort to not put myself in a situation that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy, why wouldn't I do the same for our fur-kids. In other words, why are we forcing Coco into an environment that makes him scared or unhappy?

From that point on, our mind-frame has been, "it is what it is." Our Coco bug is not damaged or difficult because dog parks and large crowds with excessive stimulation makes him uncomfortable. When you think about it, pups and "hoomans" all have things, situations, environments, sounds, etc that make 'em uncomfortable, nervous or scared.

And, that's okay. It's more than okay. 

Coco is a well-rounded, happy pup who has 2 siblings and the 3 of them together...it's amazing to watch. He's active, friendly, silly, adores attention from us and others and his favorite place is on our lap.

Not too long ago I came across a beautifully written article about a dog who got kicked out of daycare. The dog's owner was embarrassed and feared she had done something wrong...that it was her fault. The article summarizes the very same thing we had gone through with Coco.

Take a few minutes to read the article. It's worth it. 

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