My friend Paula Offutt, a writer who lives in Weaverville, NC, posted this on Facebook; and to my great surprise it went straight to my heart. Here’s what she said (italics mine)
So I’m reading Teamwork I, a dog training book for people with disabilities (PWD). And I’m sad about one part of the beginning. It talks about how to praise your dog. It explains in depth about how to do it, vocal tone, and what praise is for. The reason it goes into such great detail here, it says, is because too many PWDs don’t know how to do praise right because they’ve not heard it out experienced it enough themselves. That we may need to practice some to get the tone right since we may not have heard it enough to grasp it.
Sad but true. Retard, lame: common phrases that sting. Defined by our objects, not our humanity. Nicknames like speedy, crash, gimp. Praise comes loud and monotone, as if we are all deaf.
So a half chapter in a dog training book is dedicated to how to pitch your voice higher and when to do so.
I found it tragic that we would have to practice praising anyone/anything because we we haven’t heard it or experienced it enough ourselves. Not only does it affect cherished human relationships, because if we haven’t felt it, we can’t do it right. Animals don’t have the same capacity for understanding that we do, so if we’re not doing it right for them, they can’t think to themselves, “Oh, I know what she meant. She’s just busy and tired and didn’t mean to snap at me.” Instead he/she will just pull away with his or head down and tail between its legsou can’t train them when they don’t trust you.
Tell yourselves the good things about who you are so that you know how it feels to praise and be praised. Look in the mirror and use the higher voice if you need to. Then praise others with the same joy and excitement you praise yourself. It will keep spreading. Remember some people haven’t heard the kinds of praise they need often enough to share it with others.
It’ll make everyone better people and our dogs better able to do what we ask them to do.