Mary Nielson provides the answer
Yesterday lunchtime was a very stressful period. Because I was speaking to various members of the family in England but especially to my sister, Eleanor, who had come over from South Africa to be with my mother, and to Rose, my cousin, who lives in Baldock, Hertfordshire, and is being so supportive.
In the middle of all of this Brandy came across to the low table where the remains of my lunchtime sandwich were still on my plate and started helping himself. I was striding around the room speaking to Eleanor and when I spotted Brandy eating my lunch I really showed my anger. I shouted “No!” and prodded him hard in the back. Brandy slunk off giving me a really foul look.
Fifteen minutes later Jean and I took the dogs outside for their regular ‘after-lunch’ leg-stretch and Brandy kept his distance from me. I went across to Brandy: “Oh, Brandy! I am so sorry for being cross with you Please forgive me.” There was real remorse in my voice and, undoubtedly, showing on my face too.
Brandy came over to me and nestled his wonderful, beautiful head against my thighs and I curled down and rubbed his chest with my left hand. As simply and as quickly as it could ever be, Brandy had forgiven me.
A short while ago I was approached by a Mary Neilsen who asked me if I would like her to write a post for Learning from Dogs. I agreed and in hindsight I am so pleased I did.
Read her wonderful post and you will understand why!
Is Your Dog Holding a Grudge?
Your dog throws you that look – you know the one – and walks away. You’ve been snubbed! So what is causing this emotional outburst? Maybe your canine pal is holding a grudge.
“What have I done now?” you might ask yourself. Depending on the circumstances, you may not be guilty of anything. You may just be misinterpreting that look – or yes, indeed, your furry friend may be paying you back for some grievance.
No pet owner is perfect. We all make mistakes. We accidentally step on our pet’s tail; take away a favorite toy; or abandon them to a night alone in the house. These are things that can set our dog to turn their backs on us to teach us a lesson – if only for a little while. But is it true? Do dogs really hold grudges?
The Experts Say No
If you live with guilt every time your furry friend gives you a sideways look, you are reading too much into it, say the experts. They don’t hold grudges and they don’t act in petty ways or seek revenge. [Ed: The dogs that is not the ‘experts’! Sorry; couldn’t resist!] Their emotional lives are not as complicated as humans. Dogs are more simple creatures. They live in the moment.
According to famed canine expert Cesar Millan, dogs don’t hold long-term grudges simply because they can’t. They don’t think that way. Sure, they may act miffed now, but will soon forget what’s bothering them and move past it.
People, on the other hand, tend to hold onto negative feelings and expressing that kind of anger or anxiety can make your dog react too. In other words, if you express prolonged feelings of guilt over slamming your dog’s paw in the screen door, he may react by steering clear. It is not the action that is causing him to distance himself from you for a while; it’s your reaction to the event. In other words, it is your angst causing him to act this way.
What We Can Learn From Our Dogs
There may be some who still believe dogs can (and do) hold grudges, while research shows this assumption incorrect. Even so, there is one thing most canine psychological experts agree on and it is that we can learn an important lesson from our canine counterparts: how to let go.
Humans have a really hard time letting go of our grievances. In a recent Gallop poll, more than two thirds of participants acknowledged the importance of forgiveness, yet less than half actually were able to forgive those who hurt them. That equals a lot of grudge holding going on.
While our dogs move past every infraction, humans tend to hold on, dwelling on our hurts and allowing them to rule our lives. This can cause relational issues; depression, or worse. But, when we take after our dogs and let go of those negative feelings we can experience such benefits as:
- Happier Lives
- Healthier relationships
- Less anxiety and stress
- Lower blood pressure & Heart rate
- Stronger immune system
[Ed: read the Mayo Clinic article here about forgiveness that Mary referred to above.]
Take a look at your dog. He seems happy enough. Wouldn’t you like to be able to experience the kind of true joy and relaxation he does? The trick to that kind of contentment is learning how to let go of those grudges and live in the moment.
Yes, people are going to hurt us. That is simply life. But those hurts do not have to cause you chronic pain. Take a cue from your dog. Allow yourself to feel the pain in the moment, and then move on. You will discover that life is a lot more enjoyable that way.
About the Author
Mary Nielsen is a passionate dog lover, blogger and part-time music teacher. She founded MySweetPuppy.net to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable mutts. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.
Please join with me in thanking Mary for such a delightful guest post and hoping that we will be reading more from her.