How dog training reopened my heart

The day Britney bit me I was mad as hell. I mean, I was trying to pet her, yet she bit my hand so hard that I started bleeding. In my anger, I even considered taking her to a dog shelter. I knew that I was overreacting, so I dealt with it the best I could at the moment. I told my wife to keep “her dog” out of my way and I did my best to pretend Britney is not in our house.

It’s very easy to paint animals, or even people for that matter, as evil. I was guilty. As my emotions started to come down, I realized that Britney was back to her playful self. I wasn’t ready to forgive though. I thought how could I show affection to someone who hurt me last time I tried it? Logically it made no sense.

At my wife’s request, I reluctantly agreed to take Beginner Dog Training. In my mind, I thought I was going to use the training as a justification for my innocence. As an insurance of my moral superiority for the next time she misbehaves … luckily I got something much better out of it.

My heart opened a bit when I saw how eager Britney was to do the training. I mean, it was like watching a kid on a playground. So excited! Yes, treats had a big part in it, but I couldn’t ignore the joy. Definitely did not square with the ungrateful brat image I painted of her after she bit me. 

My heart opened a bit more when the trainer told me that female dogs tend to be more distrustful of males, because more than likely she was abused by men when she was out on the streets. I thought to myself, isn’t that a bit like me? Didn’t I used to be mistrustful of people who criticized me, just like my abusive grandfather? How many people did I push away because I thought they were bringing me back to my childhood pain?

My heart opened all the way when I realized how important it is to clearly communicate with the dogs. When I want Britney to do something I have to catch her attention with an authoritative voice. And when she tests the boundaries, as all dogs, and humans for that matter do, I have to stand my ground, rather than handing it off to my wife to deal with “her dog.” So many parallels here to my old communication style when I expected people to read my mind. When they didn’t, I blamed them.

Yes, there were setbacks. More than halfway into the training, Britney was sitting next to me on a couch. I tried to pet her head. She snapped at me. She didn’t bite, but I was dumbfounded. All this progress and I still have to worry about her aggression? 

It gave me a pause…

A short one though. 

I realized that I, myself, made a lot of progress, yet I am still not perfect. Why would I expect perfection from a dog who went through so much abuse. I mean, she still has pallet gun bullets in her body! This incident actually was a blessing. It confirmed my commitment to love her where she is at.

Then the real moment of pride came! When it all came together. My wife found Britney on the streets of Greenspoint, where she ate just about everything in order to survive. So periodically when we let her out into the back yard, she defaults to her old ways and eats other dog’s poop. This was one of those times. As soon as I saw it, with an authoritative voice, I used the emergency recall command “Britney Now!” She actually listened and ran straight back to the house … with a piece of poop still in her mouth:) To my surprise instead of the usual time out … my wife started praising her for listening.  Something Britney had a hard time doing even for my wife in similar situations. 

I felt like such proud parent!

Do you have people in your life who you think are ungrateful? How could you approach the very same situation from the place of empathy?

P.S. I learned at doggy training to give dogs a spoon of pineapple to discourage Britney from eating poop … so far it’s working!


Don’t know how to get started? We tend to be very good at solving problems with our minds. However, when our romantic relationships suffer, we don’t feel fulfilled at work, or don’t have quality friends … it typically has very little to do with logic. It’s driven by a locked up heart.

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