Seen and Not heard?

Did you ever hear the phrase ‘Children should be seen and not heard’….. I definitely did! LOL. My mother was big on the notion that, children should be seen and not heard, and that ‘big people’ are talking….

I think this was a very common held belief system that a lot of children were brought up with, and maybe still are…. 

And I would say that is a similar belief system that many expect of their dogs….  To be inconspicuous, to be constantly calm despite the situation, to ignore all other dogs people and things…. But like children, is that realistic…. And more importantly, is that fair? And even more importantly, how are we going to teach them to be ‘seen and not heard’??

Firstly, we need to ask ourselves how was ‘being seen and not heard’ communicated and taught’ years ago? Was it done with a steely glare? Or was it done in a way that had an underlying fear attached to it? The repercussions of not adhering to the ‘rule’, being a veiled threat…. Or was it done in a manner that set the dog/child up for success? A huge amount of reinforcement paired with appropriate behaviour, and value being built for the correct responses? I am sure that for most of us, over 30… it probably was more of the former, rather then later. But can you imagine the difference it would have made if it was taught in a different way?

So for example, I like my dogs to be able to be used for demonstration (when the world was open, that is!), so they will often hang out in a bed, until I need them. 

This is a taught behaviour. They have been initially taught to want to be in their crates as puppies, this is a place of safety, security and comfort for them. They are then taught to want to stay in the crate, until they are released…. So this then can be modified to a bed, or a bench, or a seat…. Anything, that I ask them to position themselves on, becomes the ‘crate’. 

They are taught that, in that situation… they are to remain ‘seed and not heard’. 

Another example is around dogs and people. I like my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’ around people. I do this by viewing socialisation as a lesson in itself and ensuring that I set them up on ‘play dates’ with dogs and people that they are going to have a positive experience with, or a productive experience with. This may mean learning to play appropriately with other dogs, or learning to ignore other dogs. Both are valuable life skills to teach your dogs. 

Or it could be, out on a walk when I see someone approaching. I want to be able to recall all my 11 dogs back at once, and have them ‘wait there’ whilst they person or dog passes. This is again taught. I build a desire to want to come back when called, and a desire to ‘wait there’ until I release them.

These skills allow my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’ in situations where it keeps them safe and ensures they are not a hindrance to others. 

However, I am also realistic that they are dogs. Not robots. Its their unique personalities and antics that make me LOL, that keep me owning dogs after 30 years!

Adolescence is a notoriously challenging time, when hormones take over, and your once angelic pup, changes into demon spawn! I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’, so I manage them and ensure that I don’t put them in situations that they cant cope with. I manage their interactions, and ensure that I work extra hard at our relationship.

If a dog acts inappropriately to one of my dogs, and my dog air snaps at them, when they jump on their back or become too intrusive, I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’. This is an appropriate response to an inappropriate social interaction on the part of the other dog. Now this doesn’t mean my dog can tear the other dog limb from limb, or cause damage to them, but saying ‘GET OFF MY HEAD!!!!’ Is most definitely an appropriate response. Thats a realistic behaviour of a well adjusted social dog, who is educating another dog about social etiquette. 

I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘calm’ at all times. If they are watching something exciting happening, and they show interest and get excited at the prospect of having a go, thats a fair response. However they also understand that they can’t get involved, leave they beds, or leave me. They also understand if I ask them to focus on me, whilst that interesting activity if going on, that supersedes their desire to focus on the other dog. But I am not unrealistic in my expectations of them. They can watch, but they cant vocalise. So in a way they are ‘seen but not heard, but not being a hindrance of danger to others. 

Often, we as dog owners, bring into our relationship, our stuff. Unrealistic expectations of our dogs, often influenced by the Disney-eque standard of what dogs should be, rather then what they are… Or at least what they are without education or information. 

It is absolutely possible to teach your dog and your child to be ‘Seen and not heard’, but how you teach them and therefore the long term impact of ‘being seen and not heard’ is critical to their overall emotional well being and overall confidence. 

A fearful dog that is ‘see and not heard’ could equate to a lack of confidence… an introvert chin who is ‘seen and not heard’ could equate to the same. 

I want my dogs to ‘WANT’ to be ‘seen and not heard’! I want them to have so much desire to focus on me, that they don’t have interest in other dogs, or they have so much value for their bed, that they ‘WANT’ to stay there, despite the distractions. 

Creating this ‘WANT’ is the key… They say, you can make a dog do almost anything, but getting them to ‘WANT’ to do it, is the secret!

Do you have a dog that is far from ‘seen and not heard’… I don’t mean a robot, devoid of personality and joy, but a dog that sees ‘good behaviour’ as an opportunity to be reinforced… and ‘good social skills’ as a way to get all the things they want? 

Well, I may have not he solution for you… I have been working on a HUGE project, to create all the above for owners who’s dogs are anything but ‘seen and not heard’… 

I have written many blogs, delivered seminars, and helped countless dogs with ‘Reactivity Issues’ to grow into confident, well adjusted family pets and so much more… 

And now I am at the cusp of sharing with you aimed at helping dogs labelled as ‘Reactive’, to overcome challenges and lead a more fulfilling life! I am so exciting about this project and all the work that has gone into it… I can honestly say, it has been a passion project after seeing so many people struggling with their dogs behaviour and in desperate need of help….

Well its on its way! Keep an eye out over the coming week… more to come! And some REALLY exciting news!!

Kamal Fernandez

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