When Abuse Becomes Our Excuse
When Abuse Becomes Our Excuse
Porter, AKA: Pooty, is a rescue from a backyard breeder that didn’t want to incur the cost of his medical expenses needed to get this guy healthy. He was a sickly dog with massive ear infections, an eye infection, and cryptorchidism. Add to this, being unsocialized with humans or dogs for the first year of his life. All of his interactions and decisions were based on his fear and anxiety. His eyes were in a constant bulge of distrust whenever a hand came too near. Oh how this poor little dude found the jackpot with me! He couldn’t have found a more loving, caring, responsible owner! Or so I thought.
I carried his story of neglect around with us everywhere! Massive amounts of affection were given at every instance of insecurity, promising him reliability from me. Sweet talking and coddling this boy is what I did best. And boy did he want to please me. At my every step, my little shadow-dog followed me room to room. He was fantastic at at obedience. My new bestie!
So what’s the problem you ask? Well let me tell you... A couple of years without structure or boundaries because I didn’t want to hurt Porter’s feelings more than he’d already been hurt, ended up rearing its ugly head in every instance of unfamiliarity for him. The doorbell meant bloody murder, house guest forewarned to never come through the door, mailman best stay outside, cat wandering past the Florida window was tonight’s RAW meal, crying, whining, barking, growling, fence fighting, car rides: forget about it, walking down the street: aggressive reactivity towards humans and dogs. What!? Cavaliers don’t act like that! My poor, sweet Porter, was now my most badly behaved dog EVER! I couldn’t do anything with him outside of the house or have friends and family over without him going completely bananas. This was no way to live folks!
So how did this all change? I changed my relationship from nurturer to Leader. I realized I was allowing Porter to make his own decisions when it came to something that makes him scared. Too much of the soft stuff only exacerbated his unhealthy issues. Because Porter’s nervousness overpowered his ability to make polite decisions, he was lashing out at quick movements, growling at strangers, and constantly whining. By setting up rules, boundaries, and structure, and moving from a place of feeling sorry for, or making excuses for, we were able to move forward to a healthier state of mind.
You see, holding onto Porter’s past was actually more harmful than the neglect he experienced itself. Moving forward as a leader, with rules and accountability for bad behavior, actually paved the way towards progress.
Feeling sorry for your dog should not be the reason to withhold structure because “he’s been through so much already.” Your dog needs a healthy future filled with accountability, rules, and boundaries that convince him that he no longer needs to make all of the decisions on his own. He has a Leader that loves him more than his story. You may want to ask yourself this: is it more abusive to let a dog continue on in a nervous, anxious state of mind because you feel sorry for him, or provide him with rules and structure that will free his mind from those very feelings? Letting Porter know “No” it’s not okay to act that way, I’ve got you, stop worrying about it, has drastically changed this nervous-Nelly’s state of mind. He is now able to just exist around other dogs and people without fearing for his life. That’s all we ever want for our guys, right? Balance and peace of mind!