In my system of working with animals, we talk about the overarching requirement for working safely with animals is for us to have ‘integrity’. I describe integrity as being based on 3 perspectives and 3 practices.
The perspective are that we give, and demand, mutual respect, responsibility and benefit.
And the practices are to be transparent, coherent and congruent.
Transparent means you state your objective and you keep to that – don’t try to trick or take more. If you say it is okay, it is. If not, say you are doing your best. That is usually enough
Coherent means that all your communication layers are aligned. Your sweat says the same thing as your actions and your words. Your consciously strive to avoid ‘mixed messages’.
Congruent means that what you are saying is congruent with the larger environment. If there are bombs going off and you say “it’s okay” and act like nothing is going on, the animal will doubt your competency. If you give solid directions which lead to safety, the dog will relax. If you tell the dog what is going on, it really helps him to cope. Perhaps because it shows that you are aware of the things that are worrying him – not just obtuse and therefore failing to act. Better yet, if you tell the dog what will happen, you can save him from a lot of angst and insecurity. Uncertainty is a very uncomfortable emotion, it seems to me. Right there next to fear.
Oh yeah, and don’t act like prey and don’t be fearful, even if you have every reason to be…