Wag More, Bark Less

Wag more, bark less. I love that bumper sticker! I see it more and more. In Washington State, along with lots of coffee, movies and rain, we have lots of dogs. Wag more, bark less. It’s great advice if you really think about it. I understand that statement to mean praise more, criticize less. Be a good finder. Listen more.

I have always loved Big Dogs. Our first dog was a mongrel. Her name was Bridget. She used to follow me to elementary school. I wept when I got the letter from my mother at age 20, informing me that she passed away. Jake was a wedding present from an old and well-meaning friend. He was a Doberman Pincher. He was crazy. He died too soon. To get over the grief, we found Britt. She was half-lab, half-doberman. She was sweet. We rescued her from a shelter. After her came Anna. She was a Dalmation. She was the family dog our boys remember. Then years later, after Anna died, after swearing I would never get another dog, a feral cat showed up on our back deck. Cole. I loved her just as much as any of the dogs. However, dogs are special and intuitive. They love us unconditionally. They give first. We love them because they love us first and always.

How many of you have a pet? Dog? Cat? How many of you have a spouse?

Be honest. How many of you treat and greet your pet with more enthusiasm, joy and love than your spouse? What if you scratched and pet your spouse as much as you did your pet? What if you ignored the dog but gave that much attention and love to your spouse?

I was in the Laredo Airport going through security recently after keynoting the sports banquet for Texas A & M University. The couple ahead of me was in their early thirties. The wife had a tiny carrier with a little lap dog wiggling around inside the leather prison. The woman directly behind her and just ahead of me was going on and on about how “cute” the dog was. The owner proceeded to take little ‘Fido’ out of her portable gulag and they began to pet him and talk baby talk to the grateful minature canine. Mind you, the line stopped moving while we all waited for these two. There were nine people behind me, frowning. These two talked with great enthusiasm about his fur, collar and tail. I watched the husband. He was clearly felt left out of the social equation. To add insult to injury, the woman ahead of me took out her i-phone and took a picture of the dog! These women were lost in their own little doggy world. I felt bad for the dude! (Wait a minute, am I barking?)

Fellas, what if you took your spouse for a long walk (don’t jiggle the keys!) every day after work and left the dog to clean the kitchen, do the dishes or take out the trash?

Ladies, what if you bought your spouse a new gift once a month (not a chew toy!), say the new Springsteen or Jack Johnson CD and ignored the dog?

I see more and more baby boomers and empty nesters taking their dogs on airplanes. Now you know why I carry my Bose headphones with me everywhere I go. Dogs bark. I see these people spending more time and giving more loving attention to their little dogs than their children or spouses! I don’t get it.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, “What the Dog Saw” he profiles Cesaer Milan, the Dog Whisperer. Gladwell ends the story with a sad story about a woman he was trying to help. Her little lap dog was attacking her teenage son with alarming regularity. Milan tells it this way: Lori was on the couch in her living room as she spoke to Cesar. Bandit (her little dog) was sitting in her lap. Her teenage son Tyler, was sitting next her. “He was our baby. He was in need of being nurtured and helped and he was so scared all the time,” the woman explained.
“Do you still feel the need to feel sorry for him?” Cesar asked. “Yeah. He is so cute. He so small and helpless.”

At that point, Tyler reached over to pet the dog and Bandit attacked him. It happened in an instant. Cesar knew the problem immediately.

“Enough with the dog attacking humans. He is only becoming more narcissistic. It’s all about him. HE OWNS YOU! The dog is biting your son and you are not correcting him hard enough. I don’t understand why you are not putting two and two together.” After working with the family Milan concluded, “It’s not going to work. The mother is choosing the dog over her own son! I would never choose a dog over my own son.” He stopped. He had enough of talking. People saying ‘I’m your mother’ while reaching out to a Chihuahua instead of her own flesh and blood. Lori shifted nervously in her seat. Bandit growled. Cesar turned to the dog and said “Sh-h-h.” And everyone was still.

We all need to remember, wag more, bark less!

Mark Matteson is the founder and President of Pinnacle Service Group, Inc., Lynnwood, WA. He is author of three books and four e-books, including the International Best Seller, Freedom from Fear; with over 100,000 copies sold worldwide, it has been translated into Japanese & French. Mark’s newest book, A Simple Choice was released in November, 2009. Mark will be the Keynote speaker at the Friday morning session at Comfortech 2010 in Baltimore, MD. To reach Mark call 206/697-0454 or email at [email protected].

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