My daughter’s dog Baguette believes that every dog who shows up in her life is there to play with her.
Jackson, my dog, is a small guy, only 10 pounds, and from the time we took him into our household from his original owner, he’s been aggressive toward other dogs. I don’t know his history, but I’m sure he has his reasons.
I’m not a dog expert and I had no clue what his aggressiveness was all about until one day not so long ago. A friend of mine invited me to bring Jackson over to meet her six small dogs to see if he could learn to get along with others and play nice, even this late in the game.
My friend is experienced with dogs and wasn’t as concerned about his aggressiveness as I was, and said it was important that no dog be on a leash for this event. She said the dogs would work things out just fine if they could move about naturally. But just in case things went awry, her husband was ready with the water hose to break up a fight.
The most amazing thing happened. After Jackson had time to acclimate to her yard, she let all six of her dogs out of the house and they ran toward him in a pack, friendly tails wagging.
Jackson was overwhelmed. He was completely silent, and his body language indicated that he was afraid. He sat down. He cowered. My heart went out to him. Until that moment, honestly, I had no idea he was so terrified. That moment taught me about the true nature of aggressiveness. It’s really fear masquerading as (fake) authority or power.
Back to Baguette!
When she came over to our house to visit, my daughter MacKenzie and I decided it would be best to let Baguette and Jackson figure things out. We introduced them to each other outside and gave them free reign — lots of space to run. I took a deep breath and figured if anyone could make things turn out well, Baguette could.
Baguette was a little surprised about Jackson’s style, but she totally took things in stride. She figured he played however he played, so she’d play that way. She’s also faster and much bigger than Jackson, so she was able to get out of his way easily, or take a flying leap right over him, which she did once.
She did whatever it took to play with his aggressive lunges, and did so happily and at full tilt. It occurred to Mac and me that Baguette thought his moves were hilariously entertaining — and definitely a new game! The more he ran after her, barking and all upset, the more she invited it.
Then Baguette did an extra brilliant thing. She began to imitate Jackson. When he barked, she barked right back as if to say, “Oh, so that’s how you like it!” If Jackson ran after her, she’d play by running away, making it a good game, and then she’d chase him right back, which caught him off guard at first, and threw him into a little more fear. Usually, it would make him run after her again, which is exactly what she wanted.
Essentially, Baguette welcomed whatever Jackson did and turned it into a game.
Jackson got a little worn out expressing his fear. It required a great deal of energy (note to self!) to do all that running, barking and pursuing. Eventually, he slowed down. While he was resting, Baguette hunkered down in a playful way about 10 feet away, looked straight at him, and waited. After a bit, he didn’t come after her, so she barked a happy invitation. When that didn’t work, she went directly to him, smelled him and even poked him gently with her paw to get him to go after her.
Baguette is an Aikido master. She turned his aggressive energy into fun for her. She received him right where he was, never resisted him one bit, and invited him to do more of the very thing he was already doing. She didn’t overpower him, manage him, reprimand him or growl–not even close. Not even once! She bounded about the yard as if Jackson was the most fun friend she’d ever met. Eventually, her play and his fear turned into play on both sides. We noticed Jackson’s tail wagging happily even when he was barking. He seemed quite pleased with how things were going.
We could all learn a little from Baguette, don’t you think? And from Jackson as well!
Jackson was tired and happy after it was all over, as if his long standing fear had been unraveled and drawn out of him like a long ribbon. He seemed lighter and less concerned.
If we apply Baguette’s brilliance to our own life, maybe we could even figure out a thing or two about how to get more playful in our relationships with each other. I watched the impossible happen with Jackson and he’s a better dog since Baguette ran circles around his fear as if it was nothing.
Baguette didn’t see his fear, care that it was fear, or interpret it as fear, so in her presence it vanished. Jackson’s fear mattered not at all to her. Because of how Baguette saw him, maybe his fear transformed. Maybe it lifted. Maybe it emptied out of him. Perhaps a kind of alchemy occurred and his fear transmuted into play.
How Baguette sees life is that everything’s in her favor. She thinks, “Jackson is here to play with me. Everything is for my enjoyment!”
To top it all off, what a good and fortunate thing to have a friend who “can’t see” your problem!