Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dog bite inhibition and recovery

This past weekend I attended a 3-day dog seminar by one of the dog gurus of positive reinforcement.  As he would say his ideas are not new, but he has re-popularized them.  Several years ago this dog guru was going to retire from lecturing but decided to come back, mainly because he felt the state of dog training was going in a downward direction, ahem, with some people only believing things they were seeing on television.  Thus, the last couple of years or so, he has been lecturing worldwide again which many of us, especially those of us who are fairly young in this industry, are delighted in seeing.

I've heard this speaker before and have seen him at conferences, but this was the first I'd seen in this type of format.  Truly, it was a great seminar with a lot of information and better clarity as to why his specific method works.  I felt really inspired.

There was one thing that was especially interesting to me and related to eating disorders and recovery.  He was specifically talking about behavioral consults with owners.  The consults could be a variety of topics, but one of the most that not only he has seen but many of us are dogs who bite.  He allows the owner to give the history of their dogs--the how, why, when, where, triggers, etc. for the dog bites.  But for him, there are only two critical pieces of information:  1) Is the dog dangerous? and 2) Did the dog/person have to go to the vet/hospital?

The rest of the information, you could say fills out the story, but these are the defining criteria.  It doesn't really matter that the dog bit when this, this, and this (triggers we could say) happened, because all it means is there is still a problem.  Even if the dog has a predisposition (maybe wired to have anxiety) to biting or has a medical condition, or whatever, the whole point is that it never fully developed what we call good bite inhibition (meaning they know how to control their mouths and are less likely to bite you, a kid, another dog, animal, etc.).  

So where am I going with this?  It's a bit two-fold here.  First, many of us, professionals included, have a tendency to talk about the past a lot (and certainly there is a place and time for that).  There becomes a tendency to get lost in the details but a failure to truly look at what to do now and learn how to resolve the problem.  For example, we can say, well, this triggered me, so that was why I didn't do x, y, or z.  But the thing is that that we have to stop looking at that "trigger" as I hate to put it this way but an excuse at times.

Perhaps, I view this differently from others, because I'm in a different place now; or maybe I got tired of looking at the past (there is only so much sulking, feeling ashamed, feeling guilty, etc. that one can do) or triggers or whatever and wanted to figure out how to help myself in the here and now.  

Secondly, there are a lot of us who walk around in "functional" modes.  This would actually equate to the most dangerous type of dog--the dog who is well socialized but has poor bite inhibition.  An example he gave us was a dog who was a therapy dog.  The dog (a Golden Retriever by the way) was about to retire and was going on one last therapy trip with another handler, not the owner.  The handler accidentally slammed the dog's tail in the door, and the dog redirected and bit her arm multiple times, sending her to the hospital.

With the "functional" ED person, we are well liked, do well at our jobs/school, take care of our family, go to social event, etc. but then do poorly at taking care of ourselves--to the point of physically and mentally wearing ourselves down to just a stub of nothing.

Now, I don't think there is necessarily a denial problem, but there is a kind of recovery lapse here. I certainly raise my hand to this.  I've been there and done that, thinking well, this, this, and this isn't happening, so it's not a problem, it's not a big deal.  But it IS a big deal.  Each moment we stop ourselves from a a certain meal, a fun event, a social event, a time with our families, a time with friends, a memory-making trip, we are depriving ourselves of something.

Anyway, I do not know if this analogy will make sense to people, but the whole notion of even though there is x, y, and z that happens, there is ultimately still a problem.  And that is something we have to remember at times when we become complacent with ourselves.  For those of us who may be stuck in the past and in the details, we have to continue to look forward and not backward.  Andi n each of these processes, it is of course baby steps along the way. 


Anonymous said...

This makes so much sense, thank you for this post, it's true. I think I'm partly in denial about things, I make up excuses for why I can't eat at that particular moment when really I should make time for it and the fact that I'm not means there's a problem. For example this week I haven't been doing so well, I've been telling myself it's exam stress and loads of people lose their appetite during exams. The problem isn't the exams, it's still me.

Thank you :)

Cammy said...

I think it's an excellent analogy, really insightful. An issue that is present but flying below the radar can be much more insidious than one that is 1) obvious and thus subject to high vigilance or 2) taken care of and worked through until the underlying predisposition fades. Seems like it could apply to a lot of issues (look at PTSD, for example), and the ED analogy here is definitely a strong one. Thanks for this post!

I Hate to Weight said...

this actually made me think of my alcohol issues -- if i think i'm fine, and i'm not vigiliant and actively making sure i'm mentally sound and on the right track, that's when little chinks in the armour begin to appear.

very interesting and thought-provoking post

Katie said...

I think this is a great analogy too. I have certainly been in the "functional but screwed" camp before - I was going to university and even went out with some of the girls in my class the night before I was hospitalised for being suicidal four years ago. I have gotten much better at catching myself a long time before I reach freak-out point now, and dealing with whatever is upsetting me before I am overwhelmed.

Linda said...

I agree with you on the trigger thing. For me anyway, it is just a convenient excuse when I don't want to take responsibility for my slips.
Very interesting post.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for the responses everyone and that you understood the analogy. I hope we can all continue to strive for recovery and taking care of ourselves.