I like to use analogies when I learn. When I teach martial arts, I go to the analogy “well” quite a bit! I think they help everyone learn, not just me.
So, one I came up with for understanding how some problems develop in dogs, is…….
“The Super Fan!”
None of the dog trainers that I’ve told it to, like it. Here’s why:
They see the balance of power in the human dog relationship all out of whack. The dog runs the show. The dog chooses everything. Which couch is it’s. When this obedience nonsense will be happening. When you pet them. And it goes on and on.
One dog trainer I knew, described it as the dog having YOU trained. He was fond of saying “Open the door, Monkey.”, “Pet me Monkey.”, etc, etc…… He had a million of them. And they were totally accurate. And, they were really hard to hear. I watched that dude pitch that line to a lot of people, and I never saw anyone not struggle with the implication that their dog didn’t care about them. That the relationship that they imagined with their dog didn’t exist. That their dog was a cool, economist, who was only tolerating “the Monkey” because of the payouts it was getting. It feels like they’re implying that the dog doesn’t love you at all. They seem to imply you’re being deluded into servicing this animal.
They don’t like the super fan analogy because to them, it seems, like the rock star is in control of the relationship. One trainer said to me “The rock star can walk in the room and say do this, and the fan will drop everything, and do that.” That seems right….. On the surface anyway. But if you look closer, you’ll understand my point. If a famous country singer walked into his fan club, and in all seriousness, asked them to dress and act like gangster rappers…… I bet they wouldn’t be quite so in love with him anymore. So really fans are pumped to drop everything and do what you want, IF you want something they understand, enjoy, and agree with. Sounds like most dog’s obedience, doesn’t it?
See, fans are actually fickle as hell. Many a star has kept some aspect of their lives a secret for fear they would lose all their fans. They are careful to craft their PR very carefully, just to stay in their fans good graces.
So, if we look deeply, you’ll see the analogy is quite accurate:
You want to be a rock star. So, you behave certain ways to attract fans to you. and it works, they love you. They follow you around. They stop seeing you as a person, and just start to obsess over you. They develop an unhealthy lopsided relationship with you. You have to hire security. You have to change your behavior to stay out of their site. Disguises. Avoid your favorite places. etc…. Next thing you know, they’re mailing you hate mail, and tearing out your hair when they run past.
Doesn’t sound like you’re much in control. Weird. You’re the rock star. But you do everything you do to keep your fans in love with you, all while managing the huge pain in the ass having them has become.
Hmmmm……. Sounds like your average dog owner.
Wanted a dog for the sense of love and companionship. Get the dog, and just lather it with love and anything that may make them like you more. And it works. They love laying on top of you on the couch. And they love the way you pet them when they ask. They love how you’ll give them food if they stare at you. And, all the toys you leave out for them. And they love how you respond to their bark right away if they do it just right.
Some of them really get the obsession going, and really feel like they need to be attached to you. And you get the dogs that have separation anxiety. And, the dogs that are crazy jealous and possessive.
You end up with a dog who loves you deeply. It’s just that the relationship is not balanced or healthy for them…. Or you.
To fix it, you have to do the same thing. You have to get past the superficial part of the relationship. You have to set healthy boundaries. You have to teach them to see you as a real person. You have to develop an ACTUAL relationship.
That means learning how to really relate to them. To see and understand them for who they are, not just what they can do for you. And to teach them who you really are, so they can see you for more than just what you can do for them. You have to share experiences, and develop trust.
Maybe then, you won’t be the Beatles, you’ll just be you. And they won’t be the nutty super fan. They’ll just be them.
Maybe. you could get rid of your bodyguards, and go for a walk in the neighborhood again.