4 Things My New Puppy Taught Me About Human Behavior
Cooper O’Mahoney is my first puppy. He joined my family on February 7, 2015, when he was just two months old.
If he looks a little familiar to you, that may be because there have been many Coopers in our lives—on television and in the movies, that is. Think Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and little Ricky’s dog Fred on the I Love Lucy show.
These Cairn Terriers happen to be one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in Scotland and recognized as one of that country's earliest working dogs. The breed was given the name Cairn because its function was to hunt and chase quarry between the cairns in the Scottish highlands.
With such a legacy, it’s no wonder that we’ve been learning as much from Cooper as he’s been learning about us!
In fact, it’s been dawning on me just how many of the concepts and skills we teach in CPI training programs are playing themselves out as we raise Cooper. The strategies we teach are useful in so many different situations, and with so many individuals because they’re based on simple psychological principles. And as odd as it may sound, some of these principles also apply to others in the animal kingdom, including dogs!
Here are four things Cooper has reminded us about our behavior, which I also teach in CPI training:
- Personal space and body language are highly important. Being mindful of someone’s need for personal space helps them calm down when they’re upset. Using respectful, nonthreatening gestures, facial expressions, and movements has the same effect.
- How we say words matters so much more than the words themselves. When someone’s feeling scared, angry, hurt, or aggressive, they don’t hear what we say so much—they actually respond more to our tone, volume, and cadence.
- Simple and clear directives always work best. If someone’s upset about something, they often can’t hear everything we say, so we need to be clear, speak simply, and offer concise and respectful support and directives.
- Our behavior and attitudes affect the behavior and attitudes of others. This is the Integrated Experience from the CPI Crisis Development ModelSM, which teaches us that while we can’t often control someone else’s behavior, we can control how we choose to respond to that behavior—and that helps them behave more positively.
For example, early on, we decided not to get excited about various sounds that Cooper hears in and around our living environment, whether it’s thunder, sirens, lawnmowers, or traffic. We’re careful to never become verbally or visually excited by these sounds. The result is that Cooper has quickly adapted to such noise and he never gets excited either.
What’s really going on is we’re fostering that Integrated Experience. We’re letting how we choose to respond influence how Cooper responds. Because just as we teach at CPI, it really is more about managing one’s own behavior than it is about managing the behavior of those in our care.
I love being reminded of how the principles we teach help all of us in so many ways. So here’s a challenge: stretch your thinking too, and share examples of how CPI training helps you in concrete ways in your everyday life!