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Honoring the relationship

February 11, 2014

Dialogue® teaches dog owners to do their best to look at everything, every circumstance and every action, from the dog’s point of view instead of a human point of view, and let that point of view guide their reactions to a dog’s behavior. Although some may consider it a revolutionary idea, it is an idea whose time has come. As Kenneth Shapiro, president of the board of the Animals and Society Institute, wrote in his piece in the NY Times last month, cognitive ethology and human-animal studies are attracting an increasing amount of academic inquiry. What we are learning, Shapiro wrote, “…requires us to eliminate views of animals that we have constructed in our own self-interest and to understand how an individual animal lives in and experiences his or her world and our role in that world.” How wonderful that Dialogue® gives us a powerful push along the way!

Another study, done with horses, gives food for thought. Dr. Ellen Kaye Gehrke, consultant and professor of international business and management, is also a horse person. She has involved herself in studies of the horse-human emotional bond which give quantifiable evidence that horses reflect human emotions. Gehrke was quoted in an article in Horse Connection Magazine as saying, “What we have seen proves that when a human is in a positive emotional state, the horse’s state becomes one of positive emotion.” I firmly believe that the same holds true for dogs, and what could better keep dog owners in a positive emotional state with their dogs than the “praise-in-anticipation” which Dialogue® preaches and teaches?

Jerry Finch, founder of Habitat for Horses, commenting on the article about Gehrke’s study for his Habitat for Horses blog, says, “How we relate to each other, horses, humans, and other animals, scientists are learning is far more complex than what we perceive with our senses and memory alone. Perhaps horses can help emotional therapy sessions better than biofeedback machines of yore.” Humans have long appreciated dogs’ capacity for providing their owners emotional support in many ways. There are all the service dogs and guide dogs, not to mention the PTSD dogs, just to cite the most well-known. It’s exciting to see that capability being identified and even measured in an animal such as a horse, which differs so markedly from a dog.

Since that is the case, shouldn’t we be expanding our respect for all living creatures far beyond the historical norm? Dialogue® was developed through my experience with dogs. It encompasses what the many dogs in my life made clear to me about what they need to live confidently, safely and happily in a human world. But already people have told me of applying the principles successfully to other animals such as cats and horses. It’s all about how we relate to each other, and the progress is exciting!

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