Honey took one look at the ramp I had placed on the floor and walked around it.
When I put yummy liver treats on the end, she decided she wasn’t that hungry after all.
Honey felt scared of the ramp. But she learned to use it anyway.
Dog On A Boat
When we took Honey sailing with us for the first time, we used a ramp to help her get from the dock to the boat.
Unfortunately, Honey was always timid about stepping on unusual surfaces. And the ramp was no exception.
We spent weeks before our sailing trip to make her comfortable with the ramp. Eventually she walked on it despite being scared.
Yes, we exposed her to it in small doses. And yes, we used treats and games to help her associate positive experiences with the ramp.
But what did more to make her accept the ramp than anything else was that it was the way she was able to stay close to us.
Once Honey realized that the ramp was how she would be able to follow us on and off the boat, she put most of her fear aside. She started out scared. But she did it anyway.
Lately I’ve felt scared a lot. And for many reasons:
- My husband and I have both quit our jobs with no guarantee of future income.
- We’ve left our home and friends and family to do something entirely new.
- And we’re committing to buying and living on a boat with very little experience.
Just sitting here thinking about it brings the fear welling up as I write.
But you know when I didn’t feel scared?
Yesterday afternoon when I was sailing a prospective boat in a protected estuary off the Chesapeake Bay.
The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the feeling of the boat responding and picking up speed as we let out another sail was relaxing and enjoyable. And not the least bit scary.
I have to remember that moment. And feel scared and do it anyway.
The Truly Brave
I don’t understand people who are fearless.
How could anyone cling to a rock face without hyperventilating? Pass a big truck on a narrow bridge without imagining a crash? Or go to a party where they know no one without being at least a little bit afraid?
But I know many fearful, brave people.
There’s the single mom who put herself through school and then moved her family to a new city for a job in her field. The person who didn’t let her anxieties stop her from taking a long trip to a professional conference. And the dog person who even after being bitten by her dog facing her own intense fears didn’t give up on her.
The truly brave ones in the world are the people (and dogs) who feel fear and do things anyway.
Learning From Honey About Fear
My dog Honey tends to be timid. Not crazy fearful. Just a little uncertain.
Sometimes that’s a good thing.
Honey will never be an adventure dog who goes roaming the first time someone drops her leash.
But it means that as we take her away from everything that is familiar in her surroundings and expose her to new experiences, we need to take things slow. We need to anticipate her fears and build her confidence.
When we do that, Honey does fine. She feels some fear when she’s exposed to new things. But she does it anyway.
Just like us.
Your Turn: Who’s more fearful, you or your dog? And how do you cope with fear?