Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Love Lessons from Dogs
Matters of the heart, taught by our canine counterparts, according to Harrison Forbes, professional dog trainer and author of Heart of a Dog: What Challenging Dogs Have Taught Me About Love, Trust and Second Chances:
1. The reassurance of forgiveness
In order to have a successful partnership, letting bygones be bygones is crucial. An inability to get over issues and move ahead is a key roadblock to happiness. Dogs, Forbes notes, are always in the moment and therefore don't hold grudges or hang onto resentment. "Dogs wipe the slate clean many times a day," he explains. "If you are grumpy and yell at your dog, but then wait a minute and act like you never did, he will forgive you — many times over. If humans could let the little things go as easily as dogs do, their relationships would be better for it."
2. The security of unconditional love
Forbes says that as a rule, when a dog loves his owner, that bond is lasting and real. "It's interesting to note that celebrities are over-the-top pet lovers," he says. "This is because their dogs really love them for who they are, not their A-list status; a dog will always treat you the same. Dogs offer truly substantive relationships in a way most people don't," he notes. When it comes to romantic relationships, humans should strive to emulate a dog's focus on what a person really offers in terms of love, kindness and warmth, he advises.
3. The comfort of consistency
In a romantic relationship, consistency can be quite comforting. What's not to love about a partner who is never moody or capricious? "We as humans understand there are different types of behavior, yet we crave consistency," Forbes says. "With dogs, regardless of your animal's personality, you pretty much get the same behavior unless he's ill. A lot of people take comfort in that aspect of pet ownership, so you can only imagine how much similar behavior could add to a romantic relationship."
4. The need to be playful
Forbes notes that most dogs want to have a good time, keeping things light and not so serious all of the time. "The easiest way to burn out a working dog is to work him all the time — that pretty much goes for relationships as well," he says. In police-dog training, Forbes explains, training is balanced with play and fun. "The harder you go at it in a training phase, the more you have to counterbalance it," he says. "It's the same with a relationship — you have to relieve the pressure through play and good times."
5. The importance of effective communication
While communicating with your partner is important in a relationship, it's not merely the act of communicating that will ensure your relationship's success, but finding the way to do so that best matches your partner's needs. This is a skill that you can easily learn from working with dogs, Forbes says. "The different ways in which I communicate with my three dogs are suited to what works best for them … and for me with them," he explains. You have to be willing to experiment and find the best way to communicate with dogs, and the same goes for your romantic interests, he says: "Just as a hot-tempered dog won't respond to yelling and lots of commands, neither will a hot-tempered person. At the same time, some more sensitive types may need a gentler approach. Essentially, no one person or dog communicates the same way — each individual has a unique style, and taking the time to learn about your partner's needs is the key to a strong bond."