- At my baby shower, a neighbor who fosters dogs was there with a pup.
- In a casual conversation, she dropped some advice on how to deal with negative situations and dogs.
- Years later, I applied it with my toddler, and it worked.
“Say there’s a party—like now…” my neighbor Maggie motioned around the yard. Colorful balloons and streamers hung from the fence. Groups of people chatted and toasted with cups of beer or spiked punch.
The punch in my hand was alcohol-free. It was my baby shower.
Maggie continued, “Suddenly, the gate swings open. An angry person barges in, flails his arms, shouts, stomps. What happens then?” Maggie petted a 4-month-old gray terrier mix named Dandelion sitting by her side.
“What happens is the energy in the room changes — all the positivity radiating from the people,” she moved again at my family, friends, and neighbors. “The energy shifts, becomes negative, just like that.” She snapped her fingers, then her voice lowered to a whisper. “All beings match each other’s energy. If you put out negativity, expect negativity back, and vice versa.” She smiled and laughed. I did, too.
A squirrel ran by, disturbing Dandelion’s concentration. He lets out low bars. Maggie kneeled down and whispered gently, “Shhhhh, shhhhh.” Dandelion relaxed, wagged his tail, walked two circles, and sat down. Maggie straightened up. “That’s why you can’t yell at a barking dog. The louder you bark, the louder he’ll bark. If you want a dog to be calm, start with yourself.”
Years later, I applied her theory with my toddler during a tantrum, and to my surprise, it worked.
It was meant to be dog-training advice
Maggie fosters shelter dogs and prepares them for their forever families. The day Dandelion came to Maggie, I saw them on a walk. Dandelion was hyper, whiny, and anxious. The shelter staff feared he was unadoptable. Maggie took on the challenge.
On that summer afternoon, Dandelion was quiet and relaxed, simply observing the scene. When someone came to greet him, he’d get up and indulge in the attention but refrained from jumping on or humping a single person — in stark contrast to my own dog, who was watching mournfully from the kitchen window.
I implemented Maggie’s method with my pup to great success but compartmentalized it as a “dog-rearing” technique for years.
I applied the technique with my toddler, and it worked
One day, I found myself losing patience with my precocious 2-year-old at a grocery store. It was entirely my fault. She insisted on walking, and even though I knew better, I took her out of the cart. Within seconds, she dashed to the end of the aisle, froze at a pyramid of single-serving rice pouches, then yanked out the three closest to her, at the very bottom. The three pouches were crucial to the pyramid’s structural integrity, so hundreds of packets showered on my daughter’s head. She delighted in the bounty and dove in for a snow angel.
I rattle over with the cart; screamed, “What are you doing?”; and pulled her up by the elbow.
She broke down in a massive tantrum. It made me angry. “And now you want to make it worse?” I thought. Suddenly, like a miracle, Maggie’s words resurfaced.
It hit me that I was on a futile quest: barking at my daughter and expecting her to be calm.
I scooped her up, propped her up on my lap, and wrapped myself around her. I apologized and promised to do better. She melted into my chest. We sat on the floor for a while, and then we laughed at the sea of green around us and made snow angels together.
Then another miracle happened: She helped me clean up.