The Art of Good Intentions


My response to one of the dogs taking a cookie with just a bit more chomp than was comfortable — or strictly necessary.

Sparkle’s True Confession.

Sparkle’s True Confession.

I handed her another cookie and she was extreme in her effort to be gentle.

She just needed a reminder that even when other dogs are trying to get HER cookie, she still needs to be gentle with the delicate human fingers. And that reminder didn’t need to be anything more than what can be conveyed in a simple word.

When a dog understands — truly understands because our training is so solid and our communication so clear — she will do her best. No, it will not always be perfect — are you perfect? But she will try so hard to do what we ask.

I wonder why it is so hard to assume good intentions of dogs? Why we cannot believe that a dog is doing her best at that moment, given her level of preparation and the current circumstances?

I see this inability to assume good intentions of a dog in training settings, at shows and even in how people talk about their dogs.

For example, a dog that is clearly trying but not quite understanding given the changes of location or circumstance or stressed behavior of the handler is said to be “blowing off” the handler — as if it is the dog’s fault for not quite understanding how to behave when the circumstances have shifted.

Instead of thinking the dog doesn’t quite understand — or simply made a mistake — we prefer to assume the worst and take offense — as if the dog were intentionally trying to thwart us and/or make us look bad.

An insult or a lucky photograph? How we perceive something changes how we feel about it, and how we react to it — and perception is a choice.

An insult or a lucky photograph? How we perceive something changes how we feel about it, and how we react to it — and perception is a choice.

Maybe that is because blaming the dog is easier than owning up to our deficiencies, which, by the way, are nothing more than invitations to get better at something. Nobody takes away your birthday because your dog needs some additional training, after all.

I often wonder if humans who cannot assume good intentions of a dog, for heaven’s sake, walk through the world looking suspiciously at everyone. It makes me sad to consider that someone who is so quick to take offense from a perceived slight from a dog is likely doing similar things to all the humans in his/her life.

What an unfortunate way to exist in the world — and unnecessary.

What would happen if we understood mistakes and/or missteps as simply a lack of understanding, and not as judgment or insult or condemnation? That mental shift changes how we react, and is powerful in promoting positive outcomes — I promise.

Don’t wish for perfection — in yourself or your dog or other people — because that is not something possible in this lifetime. Embrace the imperfections as evidence that you — and those you love — are gifted with Life.

Life is temporary. Love is forever.

Life is temporary. Love is forever.

And work hard to assume good intentions of your dog because seriously — if you cannot do it with a dog, you likely are not doing it with the people you love, and you all deserve better than that.

Life with Dogs — truly an invitation to be a better human being. Every single day.