There have been loads of people through history, and especially this last year, who have experienced despair, darkness, and depression. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when the sh!t hits the fan, but where does it really get you?
Have you ever found yourself dwelling on an insult made to you, or fixating on the mistakes that happened?
I should have done this, I could have done that. You know, all of those mentally draining thoughts you tell yourself.
Criticisms often have a greater impact than compliments, and bad news frequently draws more attention than good.
Let’s think about it for a second, how’s your dog walks been today? All good, or was there several moments where you reacted and got fed up of being dragged along, or not listened to. Was there parts that didn’t quite go to plan…? Did your dog do anything good on the walk at all, or did you miss them because you spent time focusing on the negative things they did?
When you think about it in detail, which part of the dog walk stands out to you the most? The good, or the ‘bad’?
Often, it’s the bad.
”Eurgh, they did nothing but pull me, and it hurts my shoulders, then I struggle with X,Y,Z afterwards.”
”Anytime we see something, they instantly kick off barking, never listen to me, and it gets so embarrassing and mentally draining, they’re just a bad dog”
The reason we get drawn to the bad things our dog’s do, and miss all of the great things they offer us, is that negative events have a much greater impact on our brains than positive ones. Psychologists refer to this as the negativity bias, and it can have a really powerful effect on your behaviour, your decisions, and even your relationships.
The negative bias is our tendency to not only to register negativity more readily, but also to dwell on them. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.
This psychological phenomenon explains why bad first impressions can be so difficult to overcome and why past traumas can have such long lingering effects. In almost any interaction, we are more likely to notice negative things and later remember them more vividly because as humans, we tend to:
- Recall insults better than praise.
- React more strongly to negativity.
- Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones.
But what if we actively learned to flip the switch on negativity, as it arose?
Wisdom often comes after living through challenging circumstances, and so when we face challenges in life, it isn’t easy to flip the switch on it because our brains are working against us, and telling us to focus on that bad thing.
Here’s an example of what I do when something goes wrong. I don’t think you need three guesses of who I’m going to be talking about.
I remind myself, that it’s in fact ME, who has the problem.
I could go off into a Digger story here, but the long and short of it is, he’s happy when he’s being Digger. Why do some of his traits get my back up? Because it’s a character clash, and my expectations of what I wanted in a dog won’t ever be met with him. It’s not to say I don’t love him, and it’s not to say he can’t work really well and train anything I teach the other dogs. Which he does ten times better than them too, but I’m guilty of choosing the youngest dogs, Hunter and Lilly first for their progressive training.
But it’s my expectations, and it’s my lack of work with him, that causes the problems. Sometimes it’s my emotional state when I’m tired, or in a hurry. And it’s taken me a long time to draw up this conclusion, and stick to it each time he trips me up because he’s rushing the back door, or ignoring me as he chows down on the grass outside.
But it’s all my errors. Because I haven’t taught him anything different.
So, when it comes to our dog’s doing ‘undesirable’ things when we’re walking or working with them, it’s not so much their problem, but more about how we view that problem.
If they’re barking, could we then look at the situation to prevent it happening again? Maybe you were too close, and if you had more distance away from the other dog next time, things wouldn’t be as bad…
Or, if they’re howling the house down when ever something walks past the window, instead of getting frustrated with and joining in on the shouting with them, could you segregate them to a single room before the postman arrives? (They’re normally pretty fluent with their deliveries so rough approximations of arrival wouldn’t be so hard to interpret)
Look at what you can do with you dog, instead of focusing on the problem.
There is always a way to improve things.
If you’re at your wits end, and are too clouded in negativity where you’re struggling to think of anything at all to reframe the situation, then why not get stuck into this free book which will start to help you to identify some of the reasons why your dog might be kicking off barking.
Happiness is always a choice.