Just do Something!
One of the basic needs that your dog has, is your ability to make a decision. It really doesn’t matter what the decision is, just that you make one immediately and right in the moment. It doesn’t really matter if the decision is right or wrong, just that you made one.
Dogs do not understand how to live in our world so it is important to make sure we teach them what they need to know to succeed in life with humans.
Disclaimer: I know dogs are not children but the similarities are definitely there. We know scientifically that dogs have the cognitive ability of a three year old child. I make many parallels to children because of that and many of my clients also have children, or nieces and nephews and they better understand what I am saying.
In parenting and leadership
The ability to make a decision is a desirable skill. Your dog also appreciates your ability to make a decision and help them when they are unsure in an environment. This is how they learn to trust you, and know that you are going to keep them safe.
Recently, I was out socializing with a young puppy, and we encountered an overzealous hardware store employee. This person thought he was being helpful by standing in the door way and staring at the puppy. Unfortunately, I had my back to the situation, and did see what was happening until the puppy started having feelings. This is a new puppy owner, and they did not have the experience to make a decision at that moment. By the time I realized what was happening, puppy had more barky feelings than we wanted. We walked away and regrouped, the person went back to work and we were able to go into the building.
Had the owner been able to make a decision about allowing puppy to go see the person or walking away faster, we might have avoided those barky feelings. Decision making takes practice and a little bit of forethought. Think about what you are going to do when things don’t go right and practice doing those things when you don’t need them.
Here are a few of my favorite in the moment “decisions”
Food Scatter- Dropping a bunch of food on the ground to allow your dog to think for a bit.
Nose Target- Can your dog think enough to comply with a very easy cue.
Cheerful U-turn- Jolly your dog away from the situation so you can come up with a better plan for next time.
Practice these decisions when you don’t need them so they become automatic, and something you remember to do when you need to!