How often do we really consider things from the animal’s point of view when we work with them. Even if we don’t formally train them, do we imagine what they are going through?
Consider, for example ‘horse riding schools’ where people are taught to ride horses – as though the horses are cars. “Pull up here when you want it to stop… bump it here with your heels when you want it to go…”
Or the general advice that is provided, and implemented by dog behaviour specialists. The packaged insert that says – “Dogs should not sleep on your bed. They need to know that you are the boss.”
These are two obvious examples of how we apply ‘one size fits all’ methodology without considering the sentient being in front of us.
But there are less obvious situations too. Where we actually fail to see what is going on because we are too busy in our own agendas.
We have stories that get in the way. We don’t feel worthy or need to prove ourselves to the world, so when the dog gets out of hand, we see it as a compromise of our own competence, and use that information to prove our belief system about ourselves. “I am so useless… I will show them I am the boss… Everyone thinks I cannot do it, but look I can… The world is out to get me.” Our story of the moment. The animal fails or succeeds, and immediately we project our story onto the situation, and so don’t even handle what needs to be handled with witting grace. Example. The puppy pees inside. (Because I overslept – poor pup must have been bursting.) But my current rose-coloured story is that I am in trouble at work. My boss does not have much faith in me. I am upset because it is as a result of a co-worker spreading inaccurate rumours. I may be late because I overslept. This will make it all worse. Poor puppy. It is very possible I will not react with calm rational understanding that proves that I am an animal lover in this situation.
There is more to it than just our story. Consider that many of us battle to read a fellow human beings. And people are creatures who shares our natural history. Animals are different species and have completely different ways of experiencing the world. And all animal species differ. Some have truly amazing eyesight relative to us. Or a sense of smell that puts us to shame. Their eyes are in a place relative to the world that provides a completely different perspective to the one we experience. That they use body language to communicate messages we have not even begun to understand. Their hearing is sometimes so much sharper than ours – that it can hurt for them to live in our world.
Then along we come with our ideas about how they should behave, and we work towards making them behave. Arrogantly we expect the special creatures in our lives to speak human. We think they are less than because they don’t speak human. We base our animal behaviour management principles on human frameworks. So, because I am aiming to be the boss at work, climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of all those around me, I believe that the animal’s in my life are doing the same. When the horse runs away in the paddock it is all too common for the people spectating to say “They don’t know who is boss”.
So, what is the animal’s point of view?
For exotic animal trainers, the animal’s perfect world would be free from humans and human related products and structures. No longer much possibility of that happening on our planet. For domestic animals, who have chosen to live alongside animals, it will be in a place where they feel safe.
Safety. It is paramount for all creatures. Does safety mean being the boss? Ask any boss how safe they feel. Rulers in our world usually have armed guards. In the corporate world, it is rare that there are no knives pointing out of the manager’s backs. This is not safety.
We could relate to the fact that what we all strive for – is safety – at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. And we know we are safe when we have control over our environment. When we have choices about how to interact to maintain our safety.
This points to a way for us to begin to look at life from the animal’s point of view. Firstly, consider that when there is a problem in relation with the animals, that the animal does have a point of view. To analyse – look at how the animal is attempting to control the situation. Look at why the animal feels threatened, and so has a need to choose something else for themselves. How much choice do they have at the moment of contention?
(I googled the following under ‘images’ – animal and choice. Nothing came up)-: )
The following questions – relating to choice – are good ones to help you consider something from the animal’s point of view.
1. Why is the animal doing this? (what is in it for the animal – the payoff?)
2. Where does the animal feel safe?
3. What is the trigger for this behaviour?
4. What does the animal manage to stop when performing the behaviour we are not wanting?
Thank you Frantiske Susta.
They are daily lessons. If we stay truly connected to the dream of clear communication with the super creatures in our care, then we will spend every minute looking at how we can remove those glasses, and the preconceptions.
How can we be truly harmless – in our world, and in relation to animals – we do this when we are absolutely clear that there is no subversive motivation in our everyday actions. For, if I am in relation to animals, for example – because they are filling a gap that humans cannot fill, then there is a chance that they are there – in my subconscious opinion – to serve a conditional cause. To make me look good, or to replace my children who have left home, or to provide me with a sense of being needed. IN all these examples – the animal is not free to just be.
When we truly see from the animal’s point of view, chances are, that we will be very clear in our own right. That the animals will have taught us how to simply be. This is the start of true relationship.