Dog trains man

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Embarrassment is not an option

Training class seems to be a gathering of people that all have embarrassing dogs.

Dogs that smell the opportunity to embarrass their owners and do so with every chance they get. Kenzo fits right in there, and does his out-most to make sure I get my weekly fix of embarrassment.

Our class mates discuss how embarrassing I must feel after the latest failure, and try to decide who has the most embarrassing dog. It is a harmless discussion fueled by a lot of humor, yet it shows the roots of a wrong mindset. Not everybody takes it well, some get embarrassed and never return. That is a waste.

Some dogs, like Viva, take it a lot further and embarrass us in daily life too. They lunge and bark, don't come on a recall, chase cyclists, and more. Do whatever needed to add further to the embarrassment. People send nasty looks, call each other names. Whisper among each other. The embarrassment can be overwhelming.

Embarrassment is just an emotional state we humans have imposed onto ourselves. It is not necessarily a bad thing. But when we overdo it, it prevents us to grow and learn. It blocks us from achieving things we might think could embarrass us. Embarrassment gets in between us and our dog's. Anticipating an embarrassing moment coming up will remove our focus from our dog to the moment itself. We are about to miss that valuable clue which is coming up. We send our feelings down the leash, making it difficult for our dog to judge a situation correctly. It prevents us from enjoying dog walks, or maybe even makes us drop walks as a whole. Embarrassment can put us in a vicious circle.

But I refuse to feel embarrassed. Dwelling in those kind of thoughts makes me miss out on what really transpired. Therefore I embrace them as little moments with valuable pieces of information. My dogs just showed me something I didn't anticipated. Something I didn't know about them. I just have got to know them a little better. Step by step. That makes me happy. Not embarrassed. As with many things, it is changing one's own perception of a situation which is the key.

If you are with me on this one, spread the word also in the real world. Getting rid of embarrassment is also not imposing it on others. Like the other day when a dog lunged at Viva. I send the owner a smile and said, "It could just as well have been my dog". Judging the expression on her face, it was not what she had expected me to say. Welcome to the club.


  1. Oh so true Leo! I think many of us get embarrassed and that's when we miss all the cues that our dogs are giving us that tell us where and how we can help them to be better canine citizens.

    I have seen it many times. The embarrassed dog owner, trying to control their dog, feeling like they are a pariah in the neighborhood. It really can be hard. I think they feel like everyone is judging them and wondering what is wrong with them that they can't control their dog. The truth is every dog has something they do that embarrasses their owners. It's HOW you choose to deal with it that matters.
    Great post!

  2. Very well said! and a lesson to be learned, thanks for putting it this way, I sometimes get embarrassed by Leroy's actions, I don't ever give up and walk away, but I am sure he can feel my vibes.

  3. Great post!

    I'm ashamed to say that in the past I've been so embarrassed and anxious to make up bad behavior to a stranger that I didn't put my dogs' needs first.

    I've since learned that a quick "sorry" is perfectly adequate before addressing my dog's anxiety and working to improve her behavior in the future.

    And thank you also for the gentle reminder to be kind to others facing the same struggles.

  4. Yes, great post. It's so easy to forget that it's the dog's walk and think of it in solely human terms, worrying how other humans are judging us. And good for you for putting the other dog owner at ease. I've come across people who have done awful things -- in one case, kicking, but more often pulling on a choke collar -- to dogs who are just behaving like dogs.

  5. I've thought the same many times. Well said!

    Stopping by from the Blog Hop.

  6. @melf
    Wonderful summary "The truth is every dog has something they do that embarrasses their owners. It's HOW you choose to deal with it that matters."

  7. @jen
    Thanks Jen! I knew you would never give up, you and Leroy are a source of inspiration to others.

  8. @Pamela
    Good tip. It can be as easy as a quick sorry to diffuse the "human part" of a situation. It does help both parties.

  9. @Edie
    Yes we met them too... Those are the ones we really should feel sorry about and try to help. Poor dogs!

  10. You are so right. I'd add guilt to the mix of useless human states of mind as well. Just deal with what is and get on with it!

    Nice post :-)

  11. I think this is fantastic. I think we've all been embarrassed by our dogs at one point or another, and it's a nice reminder to forget about the embarrassment and embrace the opportunity to learn about your dog's strengths and weaknesses.

  12. I embarrass myself too often to worry about what my dogs do. I just apologise (for the dogs, not myself) and hope that I wasn't wearing anything too identifying.

  13. I thought I'd read wrongly that KENZO could embarrass you. He's such a polite dog :) then I read about Viva's daily embarrassment. How funny!

    I know the feeling well. Rufus was an embarrassment for years. He was a difficult dog to socialize and if it wasn't for The Other Half's persistence and patience, and the kindness of strangers and other dog owners, we would never have been able to rehabilitate him. As for Georgia, when we first got her, she was a pariah in (some parks in) the neighborhood, as someone earlier phrased
    it, being a rough ADHD dog! It was so embarrassing, I had to start a blog to help get us over the hump!

    So I like your club a lot :) and hope that all dog owners join and support it, because that's the only way we're going to be able to help our dogs get over their fears.

  14. @georgia
    Glad you made that link. We can only help our dogs when he have first helped ourselves.

  15. Bravo! I could not agree more!

  16. Your post cracked me up!! I can't even tell you how often the dogs have done something to embarrass me. (Daily??) But you're absolutely spot on: It's silly to get embarrassed. I'll try to remember that the next time Lucas goes bonkers when another dog has the nerve to walk past our house! Or when Cooper stops our walk to bark at a stop sign. Or when Emmett tries to help himself to the treat bar at our local pet store...

  17. Very good lesson here - I could not agree more that embarrassment is a silly emotion when it comes to dogs and can be so destructive to the bond between dogs and their people. Thanks for this post!

  18. I went through so much the first year will Shiva. I am still going through many humiliating moments. One of the worst I can remember was when we were playing in a park, performing tricks and running around, she decided to take off and run in circles around a jogger, barking. It was so awful, I still cringe.

    Now if I ever see other dogs acting out I always try to go out of my way to tell their owners that they are not alone, that it happens, and as long as nobody was hurt, it's really no big deal. I also want them to know that it does get better. No dog is perfect, of course, but they do always get better. :-)

    If I hadn't have found my awesome trainer who totally gets it and just laughs when Shiva does something "bad", I don't know where we would be today.

  19. @Maggie
    Sounds like you guys have a lot of fun. You are lucky with such embarrassing dogs :)

  20. @Mary
    You are welcome Mary, glad you liked it!

  21. @Kristine
    Good for you, reaching out to others it is no big deal! What you said about the trainer reminded me what Ine Custers, also a dog trainer, posted on my FB wall: "Weirdest trainingfact: the more you embarras yourself, the more your dog loves you".

  22. You are so right! My dog always wants to jump on people and play with them and not everyone takes it well. I have to learn to get over my own feelings and try to teach her in a calm way not to jump.

    Your lesson is very good, if only more people were willing to follow your advice!

  23. @Lavi
    Thanks Lavi, glad to hear it touched you. Good luck with learning her not to jump!

  24. Hi - I found your blog through the Saturday Blog Hop. I've enjoyed reading about your experiences with your two Hovawarts.

    This is a great post. Rather than getting consumed with the feeling of "it's all my fault", it's important to use these embarrassing moments as learning experiences and opportunities for improvement. Thanks for the reminder!


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