Clients often come to a session with the hope of these behaviors getting resolved, and often they are. However, it usually requires some level of compromise, not only on the animal's part, but by the human as well. I frequently remind clients that we are asking a lot of our fur babies, expecting them to assimilate to our lifestyle, respect our homes and possessions, and treat our friends and family with kindness. These expectations are certainly reasonable and attainable, as long as we honor the effort we see our animals putting forth, and try our best to be understanding when they fall short. It is important to keep in mind that our animals have opinions, dislikes, and preferences just like we do! I know that no matter how hard someone tried, or how much they bribed or begged me, I would NOT be willing to befriend a person that gave me the creeps, or stop eating straight from the bag on the car ride home from the grocery store... :) Other things, I would be more willing to compromise on. For example, if one of my family members said to me "I really don't appreciate when you wear your shoes into the house. It tracks mud everywhere and makes a lot of work for me. If I put a rug at the entrance of the house, and leave your favorite slippers next to it, would you be willing to start taking your shoes off when you come into the home?", I would certainly oblige that request. If we remember to honor the personality and opinions of our animal companions, and validate their needs, they will be so much more willing to work with us when we ask.
Here are a few examples of this type of compromise in real life situations:
Last year, I adopted a second dog, who had a bit of a rough history. Jack came into my home with some baggage, and some fear and anxiety. One issue that was creating some tension in the household was his food aggression. From his point of view, he had been starved as a puppy, so food was something he had to fight for, because he wasn't sure he would have enough to survive. From my point of view, I had already reassured him that he would never have to worry about that again for the rest of his life, and yet his anxiety and reactivity continued. After a few days of frustration, I remembered to take my own advice (what a concept) and ask him what would help him to be less anxious at mealtimes. He responded, "I just can't relax when I can see Nellie (my other dog) eating right next to me. I can't trust that she isn't going to come for my food." I asked him if he would prefer to eat alone in a space where she could not access his food, and he immediately said "YES!" I began feeding him in his crate, and Nellie on the other side of the room. I saw and felt a change in his anxiety instantly, and from then on, that is the way they were fed. Jack is now able to share treats with Nellie without issue, and eats meals with his crate door open. In order for him to be comfortable and able to let go of his past, I needed to be willing to adjust to fit his needs. It was a humbling and healing experience for all three of us in my home.
Awhile ago, I did a reading for a friend and her dog. This friend was frustrated because the dog would not let her touch her ears, which needed to be cleaned (I think she had an ear infection or something of the sort). I asked the dog why she was resisting having her ears cleaned, and her response was "I know my owner would never hurt me on purpose, but the last time she touched my ears, it hurt a lot. I don't want to feel that pain again." I relayed this message to the owner, who verified the dog's story. I then asked the dog what would help her to be comfortable allowing her ears to be touched in the future. She replied, "I will do my best to trust my owner again and let her clean out my ears, but I need to know that she will be careful and move slowly." Her owner agreed, and we moved on to other subjects. About 15 minutes after the reading, I got a text saying, "Belle just let me clean her ears out!! Thank you so much!"
These are lovely examples of how animal communication can help to bridge the gap in understanding, and then allow a compromise to be reached, and peace to be restored!!!