Posted by: karanoel | November 8, 2021

Look!

Sunny, our mini sheepadoodle puppy, isn’t the worst barker that ever lived but it does feel excessive at times – and those times can drive me crazy. Mostly, her barks are prompted by something very appealing that she’d like to explore, like the dogs or bunnies she sees out a front facing window while perched on Chase’s bed. Or some threat that she wants to alert us to, like workers coming into the backyard or the terrifying sound of a kids’ wagon being pulled along the sidewalk.

Yelling “no bark!” repeatedly was proving to be very ineffectual. Though she knew its meaning, she was so focused on the object of her desire, self-restraint (or ears to hear) just weren’t there. Or maybe she thought I was energetically barking alongside her.

Then I remembered something I’d read in a dog training book. The author talked about redirecting negative energy into something positive, thus reframing the whole experience and producing a different response. His example had to do with aggressive behavior towards a mailman, but I figured the principle might work for our problem too.  

So I decided that when Sunny started barking, I would lure her away with a familiar command: “Look,” which means she looks at my eyes (or the treat I’m holding by them) and is rewarded for simply giving me her attention. And then I would keep her focus by running through some basic obedience commands: sit, touch, shake, stay, come; giving small treats for performing each one. 

This doesn’t sound like it could compete with a rabbit running by the window, but it does. Sometimes it takes an extra bark or two before it clicks, but when she hears me excitedly say “Look!,” she races out of Chase’s room or the yard or wherever she is, feet hardly touching the ground and stops right in front of me to give me her attention. Then her tail wags wildly in anticipation of the rest of the routine with all its rewards. The whole thing takes less than a minute but by that time, she usually couldn’t care less about the initial distraction.

It hasn’t solved our problem altogether, but it sure has been a fun way to connect with her, reinforce some other commands that benefit her and produce better (and far less exasperating) results. On occasion, I’ve noticed that she’s even caught herself as she’s about to bark and looked at me instead. 

It’s gotten me thinking about the way the Lord handles us. He’s not one to shout or get worked up when we’re focused on the wrong things or displaying negative behaviors, no matter how persistent they are, or to shame us for them. He knows that yelling “Don’t!!!” or “Bad dog!” just isn’t going to help our plight or draw us close to Him. 

Instead, when we are feeling a pull toward something destructive, He excitedly says, “Look!” and trains us by His goodness to come quickly to where He is – away from the noise and distractions – because He knows that if it’s even for just a minute, looking into His eyes and being in His presence is the very thing we need to break the power of our fears and temptations. His calls might not feel particularly compelling at first, especially when competing with the objects of our affections, but when we start to understand  the tangible rewards of time with Him, we too will come running from the far ends of our minds and lives, tails wagging with joyful anticipation, when we hear Him call. 


Responses

  1. Love this…. The rewards of spending time listening to our Lord!! …being in His presence … nothing better! Thanks for sharing , love you Karie

    • Truly nothing better!! Love you Karie!

  2. Every day we face the same issue with Mac. He doesn’t respond to our commands to “stop, be quiet” etc. I’ll try your suggestions and see how it goes.

    Mac playing with Dianne’s dog.

    House sitting for Dianne when she went to Israel. >

    • Let me know if it works for you! I’m assuming there was a photo with this comment but I can’t see it. Did the dogs enjoy each other?

  3. This is the best story. I’ve met Sunny and she is a wonderful dog. You are building a great relationship with her. You are right, this IS how God handles us. I can see it in my life too.

    • Thank you Jan! ❤️ So glad you’ve experienced this with God too. Such a sweet reality. I was so bummed to miss You and Patch but I saw photos and jeez, what a beautiful dog. And it sounds like you’ve got such a neat relationship with each other!


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