Lessons from the Dog: What Maggie has Taught Jack
When we first got Jack he was pretty out of control, overweight, overwrought, under-exercised and under-stimulated. He was reactive to strangers and other dogs. When we got Maggie just over a year later, she was close to being shutdown, fearful, underweight, under-exercised and under-stimulated. Polar opposites in some regards and so alike in others. Jack’s response to being under-exercised & under-stimulated was anxiety and fear-aggression, Maggie coped by shutting down and retreating.
Jack and Maggie have lived in perfect harmony with each other for 18 months. It was easy to see what Maggie learned from Jack. His extroverted personality allowed her to come out of her shell slowly and safely. She trusted HIM first and felt safe following his lead. This allowed her to grow her self-esteem and gave her the confidence to be her own dog. But what did Maggie have to offer Jack? She’s a shy, petite, fearful thing that he pretty much ignores, so what could he possibly learn from her?
Jack had fear-aggression issues and was not a fan of strangers either of the human or canine variety when he first joined us. We have worked hard with him over the years to overcome this and he is 100% better, although I have a tendency to steer clear of potential ‘situations’ so he can continue to be successful. As a result, he doesn’t have much opportunity to practice. But, two things happened this past week relative to Jack’s behavior that made it clear to me what Maggie has taught him.
The first instance was when our acupuncture Dr. came to the house. I put Jack in a stay at my office door while I let her in. Maggie came over and greeted her in her usual friendly fashion (even though she’s fearful, she enjoys people coming to the house) and we proceeded to discuss her shoulder and a bit of her medical history. Jack remained in his stay until I released him and then he calmly came over, sniffed at the Dr.’s feet and her bag and then went on his way – no reaction whatsoever. Exactly the same way he had seen Maggie greet her.
The second instance was one morning, we were out in the front yard and there were a couple of dogs, a horse and their owner walking down our street. We live on a dead-end street and don’t get much foot traffic, but they had cut across the open land across from us and were strolling down Jack’s street. In the past Jack would freak out a little at seeing people in what he considers his space and would charge the fence barking ferociously, but that day, he and Maggie ran up the driveway together, quietly ran to the corner of the yard and greeted the dogs with wagging tails and a happy demeanor, no barking, no raised fur or stiff tail, he was the picture of a friendly dog,just like his sister. I was so proud of him and it dawned on me that Maggie’s easy going acceptance of strangers – human and canine – has rubbed off on him and he no longer views them as a threat but as an interesting and fun event in his day.
What a wonderful gift she has given to him.
I feel lucky that the teaching between Jack & Maggie has been only good behaviors and they haven’t taught each other any mischief…yet. How about you, have your pets taught each other good behaviors or mischief?