We humans are addicted to short-cuts. We’ll skip steps and rush through directions. I don’t like to call us lazy, but especially if we’re feeling rushed, we’ll latch on to just about any excuse to let things slide—temporarily, of course! Giving things “a lick and a promise” as my granny used to say, we blithely assume we’ll be able to go the full distance later, tomorrow, some OTHER time.
We humans are pretty good at fooling ourselves, too! Ever notice that tomorrow or that OTHER time, it’s even harder to make the effort and do whatever it was? I’m not even talking about something BIG, like walking the dog. No, it’s the little things that tend to get washed away in a flood of just-this-once!
I don’t think anyone really likes being bowled over by the dog (or dog pack) on our way outside. There’s no reason for dogs to bowl us over because they really pick up the WAIT/OK cue at the door with amazing ease. On high-traffic days, out of self-preservation – I make all dogs SIT, and WAIT until I get the door open and they are released with OK. My mom thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world to see 7 or 8 bottoms hit the ground more-or-less simultaneously. Even the first-time visiting pups get the hang of the business in just a few minutes.
So, do I make the dogs do that ALL the time? Of course not! I know it’s a breakdown of training! I know making them SIT and WAIT won’t really take appreciably longer than fighting my way close enough to lean over the large jostling bodies to grab the door handle. I know it will be less aggravating and stressful! I KNOW it’s safer and better and yada, yada, yada! For some reason – call it temporary insanity – I think it’ll be easier to skip the whole WAIT business. Even when it demonstrably takes as much time or MORE to push past the “puppies” and persuade them to move enough to let the door open. Even as I strain to hold the door open against the onrushing wave of wolves wanting to win the “outside” race, I still think (at the time) it’ll be easier.
In my going-out-the-door example, at least the actual DANGER to anyone is relatively low. Sure, I get jostled, but that happens outside during playtime, too. Yes, dogs that were a bit protective of their place in the pack might get a little ornery, but I’m not tempted to skip steps when there are ornery dogs visiting. However, I’ve seen a lot of skipping steps just-this-once that have potentially lethal consequences and leave me with sweaty palms and a pounding heartbeat!
For nearly a year, until his mom moved out of state, a lovely Basset Hound/Beagle mix came for daycare a couple of times a week, and often boarded while “mom” was away on business. Max was a real sweetie, but he was a typical scent hound. Let his nose point at the ground and he was off — and never looked back or even heard you calling to him. His mom consistently – because it was easier, just from the car to the training room door – wouldn’t put his leash on. For a while, she carried him. Well, Max was short, but no light-weight! So soon, his mom would put him down on the ground for the last few feet, then a few more…
Well, you know what happened! The first time he trailed a squirrel towards the road (a busy thoroughfare where cars whip by at 50 mph plus) I thought I’d have a heart attack. We’re lucky that he heard us that time – and that the time he DIDN’T hear, he was headed off back into the shrub woodland and went slowly enough for us to catch up! After chasing Max for 20 minutes, I determined that I would take the time to rush out with my own leash and put it on him from then on!
Obviously, not taking the MAYBE 10 seconds with a squirmy dog to clip a leash on the collar did NOT save time. Equally obviously, clipping the leash on could very well be the only thing that would someday save Max from getting hit or lost, but his mom never did put his leash on! And we all do this sort of thing. I’ve done it with Kita — just going out to get in the car — even KNOWING she’s not 100% on recall if there’s any furry critters out there!
Yep! My only explanation is temporary insanity. It’s not like we don’t REMEMBER what happened the last time. It’s not like we really expect things to be different the NEXT time! (And if we do, that’s more evidence of incipient lunacy!) What is it with the human brain that it doesn’t recognize that making a LITTLE effort “just this once!” will save us time and aggravation – and perhaps tragedy – in the long run?