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The People Whisperer

13 June 2009 2 Comments

There is a television show on American T.V. about a man known as “The Dog Whisperer.”   Born in Mexico, his ability to communicate with dogs became apparent when he was young.  The locals called him: “El Perrero”- which is Spanish for “The Dog Man.”   On every television episode of “The dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan tames and rehabilitates dogs who seem impossible to control.  The ferocious, the biters, the “fraidy-cats,” the “escape-artists”- Cesar Millan can cause them all to become well-behaved and well-adjusted.   But on last night’s episode, it looked like The Dog Whisperer had come up against a case that would be impossible even for him.

The little dog in question was not a bad guy, he just had an excruciatingly annoying habit.  Every time his owners would leave the house, the otherwise cute little dog would go into a hyperactive dither and bark incessantly.  How can you stop a dog from barking?  Especially from barking when their owners leave?  It appeared impossible.  But The Dog Whisperer not only solved the problem within five minutes, as the owner’s watched aghast- he explained exactly how he did it.

Now wouldn’t you like to be able to solve the impossibly irritating behaviors of others around you?  If Cesar Millan can stop a dog from a life-long habit of barking within five minutes- could the same ability to change offensive behaviors be applied to people?

In pondering that, the first step is to consider how Cesar Millan was able to stop the dog from barking.  In watching Cesar interact with the dog, it was not readily apparent what he had done that caused the dog to change its behavior.  Basically, he lightly gestured to the pooch to stop barking- He made it clear to the pooch that he did not want him to bark.  But certainly over the months and years of anguish the owners of the dog had endured with the barking, at some point they too must have made it clear to the dog that they did not like the barking.  So what was different about what Cesar did?

Dumbfounded at seeing their dog allow them to leave the house without putting up any fuss or barking, the owners, amazed, asked Cesar how he did it.  His answer:

“This dog thinks he is the leader of the pack- and he hasn’t given you permission to leave.  That is why he barks.  I simply let him know that he is not the leader of the pack.  Now he will simply accept it when you leave.”   And so the dog did.

There it is:  The first step in changing offensive behavior is in understanding the perspective of the offender.  Then, letting the offender know that their perspective of entitlement is incorrect, unacceptable.

How many times do we ineffectively jump to the second step in human altercations?  There can be no change to achieve reconciliation, healing or attitude and behavior change without understanding.


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