As we went into Lockdown #6 I felt a surge of frustration. Once again my clients were missing out on classes, dogs were missing out on training. Then today we were released from Lockdown and the same feelings surfaced. I realised that the Lockdowns themselves were not the reason for the frustration, but it was the unpredictability, the switching back and forth that had me frustrated.
To feel comfortable and optimistic we need predictability and consistency in our day to day lives. We can plan, we know what to expect (in a general way) and we can cope with the surprises much more easily.
Our dogs are the same. Dogs need consistency and predictability in their lives in order that they too feel comfortable and optimistic. Dogs are very good at picking up patterns of behaviour from each other and from ourselves. They know when it is Dinner O'Clock, when you are leaving for work or school and when to expect you to return. They know when to expect their walks. They know these things because we have set a pattern. Some dogs even know that the pattern in their lives is that their humans have no pattern in their lives. I have a client who works random shifts, both days and nights, without a real rhythm to it. The dogs are content knowing that their owner will go out, and they will come back. Walks and meals will happen. But also there is another consistency at play.
Handling. Rules. No matter what craziness our lives throw at us, if we are consistent in our handling and with the rules we have put in place, our dogs will have a familiar pattern to refer to. Our handling needs to remain consistent with the set side that the dog works, and also the Perfect Position. When things look the same, the dog is relaxed. When we set rules of behaviour and stick to them, our dogs know what is expected of them. Thus we can have visitors, we can go to public places, we can take holidays and when our dogs accompany us the rules remain the same. The dog knows not to jump on people, they know to stay on their mat when asked, they respect boundaries that are set.
Consistency is good for us and good for our dogs.