Love and Manners
Traveling rural roads near my home this morning I passed one of the many small churches that dot the Midwestern countryside. The sign in front of it said “There is no Love without Courtesy.”
Love isn’t expressed in our words or beliefs, but by our actions. It’s the little things we do—not the big ones—that define who we really are.
No, love can’t exist without courtesy, whether it’s expressed on four legs or two.
According to Peggy Post in “Emily Post’s Etiquette”, there are three bedrock principles to etiquette: respect, consideration and honesty. She goes on to say that courteous people are also observant, empathetic and flexible.
These sound to me exactly like the qualities I want to encourage in the human-dog relationship.
Unfortunately, as a trainer, what I all too often find are relationships that are not founded on mutual respect, consideration, observation, empathy and flexibility (in other words on common courtesy).
Rudeness runs on four legs as well as it does on two.
In today’s society many people incessantly give their dogs food, affection, toys and freedom without expecting anything in return. These overfed, under exercised, and under stimulated dogs are bored and looking for something to do. What they often discover is that rude behavior can fill the void by getting them attention. Even if it’s not positive attention.
Dogs are social creatures. They have an innate sense of the importance of courtesy. A large part of the communication and interaction we have with our dogs takes place within the rituals of our day to day life. These shared routines; including feeding, walking, playing, resting, and greeting; form the basis of our relationship.
And the only stable foundation for that relationship is – courtesy. Without it we don’t love, we just co-exist.