I Take My Lessons Where They Come

I take my lessons where they come and lately, they have been coming from Roxie.

Roxie’s write-up on the DuPage County Animal Services website said she wasn’t good with other dogs. She had to be the only dog in the home.

On our adoption visit, as we meandered in a fenced area, I watched Roxie ignore another dog and the other dog ignore Roxie. The volunteer said, “That’s kind of what she does around other dogs. Doesn’t want to play. Just kind of ignores them.”

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for Roxie to do that now.

Roxie shows fear-based aggression toward almost all other dogs. Even Oliver, Saul and Robert’s pug. Even Riley, Susan and Tony’s sixteen-year-old shitz shu that Roxie could blow away with a sneeze.

I’ve been studying how to handle fear-based aggression. It seems there are three schools of thought:

  1. Be the Alpha. When I did this with Roxie, it made both of us worse.
  2. Be B.F. Skinner. Reward desired behavior with a flow of treats. I didn’t do this because what would happen when I ran out of treats?
  3. Build Trust. A writer buddy recommended the Trust Technique, and that’s what I’m doing.

The Trust Technique is simple, but it isn’t easy. I’m working my way through hours of video and practice exercises. It’s mainly about creating calmness in yourself and your animal so they can learn. You start by staying in the present moment and giving your animal mindful regard. Then, you let the animal have their own realization learning. The foundation is a trusting and cooperative relationship with your animal. (I’m saying “animal” instead of “dog” because your animal might be a horse or something else.)

Last night, I practiced with Roxie for the first time. She sat up on her bed and I sat beside her.

I got completely still, focused on a spot where I could see her in my peripheral vision, and brought my mind into the present moment. Roxie stretched out on her bed. When she raised her head, I stopped meditating and gave her mindful regard. She licked her lips. She yawned. She lay down but didn’t close her eyes.

If fear comes from not feeling safe, then Roxie doesn’t feel safe.

After our practice session, I said to Roxie, aloud, “It’s okay, Roxie. You’re safe. I’ll take care of you. You don’t have to worry anymore. It’s my job to take care of you.”

And then I started crying, because those were words I needed to hear, too.


I never use affiliate links. They’re against my religion of ‘Stay Off the Slippery Slope’ which I learned in the church of Arthur Andersen (ironic, I know). The only links I make money from are links to something I’ve created. In case you’re interested, here’s the link to the Trust Technique website. And here’s one of their courses that’s currently free.

Chewing the Cud of Good

wet footprints and paw prints on concrete
Thankful for moments of joy.



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