We have no fucking empathy.
Empathy is the ability to see from the perspective of another. And…. we don’t. We actually see from OUR perspective. And we assume that everything shares our feelings.
Good thing for dogs ….. We’re right most of the time. The reason we co-evolved together is because we are so damn similar. We get them. They get us. We lived together before we had words. Or leashes. And THAT….. Is the crux of this article.
That god damn leash.
That leash is the one place that we disagree with dogs. Or… at least can’t see why they disagree with us. We sometimes have to put them in crates. But we get that they suck. Or…. we see that from our perspective they would suck. So…. we offset the suck. Kongs with peanut butter…. Poofy blankets….. Puzzles and shit. We get it. So we try. And when a dog doesn’t like it…. We take our time. And we feel bad. And we try to help them cause we know in our bones that it sucks. And, we do this for muzzles. And vet visits. And, ALL the other places where we make a dog do something entirely unnatural that it doesn’t “get.
Except that god damn leash.
No…. That leash just goes on a dog with ZERO empathy. There’s no counter conditioning. No progressive desensitization. Just….. BOOM… It’s on. And then…. The irritation starts. “What is this dog’s problem?”. “Why is he being so stubborn?”. Belligerent. Willful. Dominant. Or any of the other oppositional fantasy narratives we come up with.
And then…. Once we’re in that paradigm.
And we set this competition up. They try to get away. And we try to stop them. Some dogs give up easy (ew, who likes that kind of dog). And some decide it’s the best game ever and pull until there eyes pop. Then…. Some just hate the whole process and take that out on everything they see. Or worse….. The dickhead attached to the other end of the leash.
And then we strategize…. How would we win this argument? Prongs… Surprise pop cartwheels…. Electronics….. Snoot loops…. Chest compression harnesses. Hog tie apparatus? Yeah…. We have thumbs and shit…. We will win the argument.
We change the perspective?
How about we have some empathy?
Look…. Dogs cover like 20 miles a day if left to their own. And they travel at like 4 mph. With a social connection of like 50 yards!!!
We…. Cover like 10 (in a natural setting). At like 2 mph. And we have a social connection of like 10 ft.
Imagine….. A dog born to cover that ground, in that bubble, at that speed. Being forced to walk in our bubble. At our speed. For most likely 2 miles 3 times a week. It’s fucking brutal. Horrible. Imagine the ONLY time your let out of confinement… I tie your shoes together and make you walk cheek to cheek with me. And if you protest at ALL or even try to hop faster and speed up…. I will make you pay for your insurrection. Oh and you better smile and nod at everyone you pass. Cause I will not tolerate “reactivity”.
That is what we do to them EVERY day.
I know we can’t burn our leashes. I know we HAVE to make them walk in that way. There’s cars. And lawyers. I get it. I am not saying don’t train them to accept it. We have to. Just like we have to train them to accept vet care. And crates. And muzzles. But….. I’m saying that by shifting your paradigm……. By having some empathy…. It will change how you train. And how you FEEL.
You may decide to actually teach your dog to tolerate the gear instead of feeling frustration at them for not being born for a collar. You may use a harness and (gasp) food to get around until they’re able to deal with this stupid slow ass bubble we insist on. You may choose more comfy collars to offset the suck of training. You may choose to be more cognizant of time under collar tension and look for moments to give them active release from the pressure. You may choose to investigate long lines, flexi’s to me able to punctuate the suck with moments of liberty. Or search out fenced in areas to let them have some freedom. You may put more time into off leash reliability to let them have some truly amazing liberty opportunities.
Or…. maybe…. You’ll just have some more patience for the process. You’ll stop being “offended” by the dogs “obstinance”. Maybe…. You’ll develop some empathy.
There’s people out there that get it.
But there’s Mark McCabe. Micheal Ellis. Grisha Stewart. I’m sure there’s more.
Point is…. There are only a small number of trainers out there in this camp.
It’s time to change the paradigm.
Let’s spread the idea of leash empathy around!
Now go train.