Healing relationships series part two
The most common reason that I have heard that people used aversives in the past is because they thought they were doing the right thing.
Even to the point of firmly believing that if we had conversed back then, we absolutely would have argued and they still would have stood by their decision and felt that they were in the right.
When exploring why, this is because of ego, not being able or allowing themselves to back down and also feeling hurt at someone pointing out what is wrong and how they are wrong.
This is the downfall of humans. When humans make mistakes, after thinking about it at a later date, many people don't just admit that they were wrong or acknowledge deep down they knew that they were wrong, but also feel tremendous guilt and shame.
Handling human emotions is a delicate balance for me. Whenever something is pointed out, no matter how respectfully and gently, if the person who is on the receiving end feels slighted in any form, it becomes personal, a criticism and a wound.
Can we help how others feel? No of course not, we cannot control how someone will receive or interpret information. Take myself for example, as a neurodivergent person I can get it wrong when I speak to people, I'm the first to admit I can misinterpret what has been said, misunderstand, take things the wrong way and am highly sensitive. To the point where I will ask my trusted person(s) for an explanation of whether or not they think that I'm right in what I think or wrong.
The people I seek help from always say that it's not normal to be so concerned and then admit you were wrong immediately when I get their interpretation, if I was wrong.
Not all people are built this way, I'm built this way. because I have struggled all of my life with being neurodivergent and with trauma. For other people this isn't the case, whether neurodivergent or not people will understand things the way that they want to understand them at that time. Because we are all entitled to freedom of speech, thoughts, etc.
But what about dogs?
Dogs are a different species to us and I think sometimes this becomes lost. There is too much pressure and expectation put onto dogs and expecting them to essentially be people pleasers.
Many human emotions are attached to dogs and this is where relationship breakdowns begin between dogs and humans.
There's definitely a shift with the good old millennials, as we are constantly told in psychology blogs, to the point of surveys and research being performed to analyse the data to such an extent that newspapers also repeatedly share these stories.
Millenials are the generation known for calling their dogs "fur babies" which makes sense as our generation during the last couple of decades have seen the vast changes within the approach to dogs and the "force free and holistic movement."
"Far from being a selfish generation, millenials work hard to provide for their dogs. Dogs provide millenials with routine, a sense of responsibility and a focus away from themselves." (1)
Women's health magazine went another step further to understand the financial side behind millenials and their dogs. If you type in millenials and dogs you will also see the obsession with many financial related blogs and news outlets, obsessed with us millennials spending most of our money on our animals.
Women's health magazine found that despite the millennial generation being hit the hardest by the cost of living crisis, (especially as we entered adulthood in 2008 we had the financial crash to deal with). Millennials are willing to make financial sacrifices for their dogs and pets.
From a survey of 1,000 participants they found that:
63% spend more money on grooming for their dogs than their own hair.
76% would cancel a date or a night at the pub to spend more money on their dogs.
Spending on average more than £31 a month on vitamins and supplements for their dogs and £39 a month on average on grooming.
Whilst over 45 year olds spend £9 a month on vitamins and supplements and £12 on grooming per month.
Fear free vets conducted their own research and also determined that millennials are leading the way with focusing on preventative care for their pets, that millenials are the most educated generation and due to being the generation of technology, heavily research to make informed choices for their pets and if they don't feel that their pets are being treated well they will go elsewhere and take nothing as gospel, even from vets.
I feel extremely called out.
Fear free vets also went another step further and referred to a study conducted that determined that:
77% of millennials would have a more favourable view of veterinarians if veterinarians would discuss the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.
74% of millennials would more likely visit their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.
25% of millennials regularly talk to their veterinarian about the health benefits of pet ownership, more than any other generation.
Concluding that millenials are not only seeking the best medical care ever for their pets but are seeking bond centred approaches, gentle handling and considerate approaches. (3)
So considering the data and the research it makes a lot of sense that I have been discussing with older people about crossing over to be force free from a traditional dog training background.
I've also found speaking to clients of my own generation, and clients of generation Z, that many have used aversive equipment because their parents did, not limited to aversives just for walking. They may have also done aversive acts such as rubbing puppies and dogs' noses in toileting in the home, using crates as punishment and so forth.
We also know in the dog world, there are aversive trainers across all generations, not just limited to older generations and as a child in the 90's/2k onward I had a book, that I cherished which damned chokers and other aversives, but was outdated concerning nutrition, crates and so forth. So my generation has been lucky in a way in being able to enter a more force free and holistic based dog world as adults.
It's also joked across social media and the media that millennials are snowflakes and need mental health days, which now is becoming the norm and not so much a joke anymore, especially post covid.
But this desire to respect mental health, promote self care and knowledge is passed onto our pets, especially our dogs.
For many of us in the force free/holistic world we can use psychology papers to understand mental health, researchers certainly do and this has created a much wider understanding and knowledge of the needs and welfare of animals.
This is how we understand trauma in animals, what causes trauma and how we can heal dogs through trauma informed approaches.
Some of us in the dog world are very open about the trauma we may have endured whether this be in childhood or adulthood and through therapies, studying and learning we develop a deep connection and understanding of the trauma that animals can endure due to humans, the consequences, how it affects behaviour and how to understand a traumatised dog in order to help them.
This is perhaps why we are so passionate about educating others and sharing how aversives affect dogs in a negative way, why holistic methods are so much better and why holistic approaches for behavioural consults consider the whole dog as an individual to meet the dogs individual needs and positively change their welfare.
As a millenial I feel we have a lot to thank the older generations for, as they have paved the way for a force free and holistic movement that we have been able to learn from, expand our learning and apply this to dogs to the point where there is an international recognition in statistics of millennials being the generation to provide dogs with the best lives possible.
We also have to remember that it is only through education and showing others why our methods, thought processes and teachings are so much better not only for dog welfare as whole and meeting dogs biological needs but for a better relationship with dogs, to heal dogs from their trauma and aid dogs who are genetically predisposed to fear, anxiety and environmental challenges and that this can not be met with aggression, aversives, pain, fear or intimidation but through a whole being approach, understanding and gentle care and support for dogs.
This is the way that light bulbs will switch on for others and we can only support them on their journey to the kinder ways of working and living with dogs. Despite what any aversive based person may say, showing them, teaching them and educating them is the way to turn the light bulbs on.
Join me for part three in understanding, living with and loving pets with behavioural problems and how this can be addressed through understanding trauma, what influences environmentally challenged behaviours and how approaches changing to force free and holistic methods will set you up for success, regardless of being a professional or a guardian.
Graham, T. M., Milaney, K. J., Adams, C. L., & Rock, M. J. (2019). Are Millennials really Picking Pets over People? Taking a Closer Look at Dog Ownership in Emerging Adulthood. Canadian Journal of Family and Youth/Le Journal Canadien de Famille et de la Jeunesse, 11(1), 202-227. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29173/cjfy29454
Davies , E. (2023) Millennials are more willing to spend on their dog’s wellbeing than their own. Available at: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/.../millennials-spend.../
Steve , D. Millennials lead the way in Pet care , Fear free pets . Available at: https://fearfreepets.com/millennials-lead-the-way-in-pet.../
Image description: A man stands with his head down in front of a door frame that is powerfully lit up. Above the door frame is an exit sign. The text in white reads: Are you ready for the light bulb to switch on?
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