Life Lessons from a Puppy: Fear

What do you fear? spiders? flying? making mistakes? looking stupid in front of others? social rejection? or perhaps the unknown?

For a puppy, everything is unknown. There is much to potentially fear about the world around you. So you approach new things with caution and sniff a lot. When we first took Loki for a walk around the parking lot, we walked at a normal pace and the puppy kept up with our speed. Then all of a sudden, he stopped dead in his tracks. Why? It took us humans a few minutes to figure out -- it was the speed bump! He was afraid of the speed bump. Why is there a yellow bump protruding from the pavement? How strange! At first, I let him go around it. Okay, that's fine. We avoid what we fear. If we avoid the speed bump, it can't hurt us. For the next few speed bumps, we did try to get him to walk over it, but upon his resistance, we succumbed and let him walk around it. Finally, at the last speed bump of our walk, we paused and let him approach it with caution and let him sniff it as much as he wanted. It took some patience to just let him explore on his own, but he eventually learned that the speed bump won't hurt him. Now, he never gives a second thought as to why there are random yellow bumps in the road. He can walk or run on them without even the slightest pause.

But he might never have learned that lesson if he continued to avoid the speed bump. In my own life, I've become an expert in avoiding what I fear. Fear of social rejection? Okay, I won't socialize much. Fear of making mistakes? If I don't start the problem or task, I can't make a mistake! The only problem with avoidance is that I never even give myself the opportunity to learn that socializing doesn't always result in rejection and to learn from the mistakes you made.

Even with the puppy, I caught myself avoiding what I feared. All puppies nip and bite. Unfortunately, it really hurts! They have some sharp teeth! So fearing the puppy bites, I ended up avoiding playing with him at all! How terrible is that? An owner who is afraid to play with her cute little puppy. But if I avoid playing with the puppy, of course, I won't get nipped, but I also miss out on playing with the cute little critter, and the puppy misses out on the opportunity to learn bite inhibition.

So the life lesson for me to avoid less of what I fear, have the patience to approach it with caution, and learn that the speed bump won't hurt me.

1 comment:

Kay said...

O yea, things might be normal for use but weird for them. Pearly is scare of heights, scare of man holes, she would stop and run to the other side and walk around it.

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