Common Ground

IySCob9WT3ulxRSEZimmIAMy dog Finn takes his sleep very seriously.  When he’s awake, he has endless energy, and spends his days tearing around the house or persistently trying to convince us that’s it’s time for another walk or even more food.  But by early evening, he’s always curled up in his dog bed, fast asleep.  And that’s just fine, right up until the moment when we want him to go outside for his last potty break before we put him in his crate for the night.

Our late-night routine is always the same.  When we’re ready to go to bed, my husband and I call Finn to go outside.  We always begin on a cheerful note, holding the back door open hopefully and calling, “Come on, Finn! Time to go outside!”  And Finn always ignores us, even when my husband adds, “I’ve got treats!”  (I refuse to resort to bribery.)  So then we approach his bed, a little less cheerfully, and tell him that he needs to go outside RIGHT NOW.  At this point Finn opens his eyes and fixes us with a glare that makes it clear he has no intention of budging an inch.

Eventually, Finn leaves his bed, either by choice when he sees we’re not backing down and we begin to use our really stern voices, or because I lose patience and simply lift up one side of his bed and gently tip him out.  And then he’ll go outside and potty (occasionally getting his revenge by peeing on my flowers), come back in, get his treat and trot willingly into his crate.  And yes, we go through this routine every single night.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Finn persists in his belief that one night he’ll win the battle and not have a bathroom break before he goes to bed (which we’d allow if we thought his bladder could hold out that long).  And my husband and I keep right on believing that one of these nights Finn will cheerfully spring out of his dog bed and go outside the first time we call him.

It’s funny how often we persist in thinking we can change the way others behave, and how we naively believe that if we just try hard enough and long enough, we can convince other people that our way of thinking is the only right way.  Social media provides ample proof of that, with all those posts pointing out all the faults of those who happen to believe and act in ways that are different from us.  And we’ve all witnessed, and probably participated in, those futile arguments where we try so very hard to show someone just how flawed their thinking really is, and then end up frustrated when we’re not able to change their minds.

The truth is, Finn is probably never going to want to go outside for his late-night potty break, and we are never going to feel comfortable putting him to bed without it.  But maybe if we try getting him out a little earlier in the evening, he won’t mind it so very much, and he’ll still be able to “hold it” through the night.  Compromise, after all, is so often the key to solving problems.  It’s never quite as satisfying as winning an argument or actually getting our own way, but there comes a time when we realize that it’s better to “give a little in order to get a little.”  And that’s true for all of us, human and otherwise……

67 thoughts on “Common Ground

  1. routine. Although we’re typically in bed by 9:30 they’ve all been asleep for at least a couple of hours. If they need a little coaxing I can insert my foot under their butt or back and they will give me a look of indignantly but usually bounce up and head outside. Except Koda. Once in a while she will just look at me and go limp. I can roll her, tug at her, and coax with squeaky toys but she digs in. During those times her compromise is usually giving in but waiting until all other night time prep is finished.

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  2. Your story made me think of Liam and Kieran. I started giving them a Milkbone before bed because Kieran would vomit when his stomach got too empty. The consequence was that they would start jumping around to go outside anytime between 8:00 and 10:00. I even had to make sure they pottied before they came in, because they’d go outside and then tear back into the house.

    >

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    • Sometimes we train our dogs to do things without meaning to! Lucy used to ask for a potty break, then just stand on the porch for a moment before she came back in to get her “I came back in” treat.

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  3. You said it: “we persist in thinking we can change the way others behave.” When I was younger I did believe that, but as I’ve aged and mellowed I don’t even try to change people anymore. Instead I watch and learn and report on what I see. Somehow life seems easier this way. And more entertaining.

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  4. My daughter’s puppy was, lets say, willful. It took them two trips to puppy class to make the dog understand that it wasn’t the alpha dog. Once that was established, training was much easier!

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    • Finn is supposed to be a Patterdale Terrier, although no one knows for sure. But I can tell you that he is some kind of terrier, because he certainly has the terrier personality, which is loving, energetic and definitely willful. We have to remind him daily that he isn’t the one making the household rules. Luckily, he’s always very sweet and loving.. those traits make the pushiness easier to live with. Plus, I’m every bit as stubborn as he is!

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  5. Mr Finn has surely grown up enough to try to assert himself once in a while. He looks very comfortable in his bed, which he must be. But isn’t the analysis of the problem a sparkling example of ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement)?

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    • He is very comfortable in that bed, particularly on cold nights when we give him a light blanket to cover up with! And yes, this is a great example of how we can find an area of possible agreement, I think. I’ve never heard of ZOPA before, but I love that term! It sounds even better than compromise.

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    • Mr. Alan, sometimes when I’m asleep in my bed, I don’t even want to get out of it for a treat! But once I do get out (my parents can be very stubborn) you can bet I make sure I get the treat that is due to me. Love, Finn

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    • Trust me, there are definite similarities between dealing with children, teens, and dogs! And yeah, I always think of social media as a place where everyone is shouting and no one is really listening…. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. I always like hearing about Finn! I no longer think I can change anyone’s views (if I ever did) but this does resonate with me over my relationship with my mum. “If only I explain xyz often enough / in simple enough terms, she’ll remember / understand”. It doesn’t work but I have to cling to that belief, so like you and Finn I keep trying despite all evidence to the contrary.

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    • Thanks, Anabel! And you know, you make a very good point there. Sometimes we cling to our beliefs, even in the face of so much evidence telling us we’re wrong, because we simply need to. It’s better than the alternative, which can sometimes be hopelessness. That’s why I keep repeating things to my mother as well, even though it rarely seems to do any good.

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  7. Everyone loves their routines. Now that this year has proven to be a bad year for ticks, we’re instituting new routines, for ourselves and the cats. Judging by how hard it is to change our own behaviors, I can see what an uphill climb it will be with the cats. When they come in, they get “frisked” for ticks. It’s not unpleasant, in fact, when you get right down to it, they like it. But it’s new and they regard it as an imposition, one of life’s little indignities, and resist. We’re not likely to give up…and neither are they.

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  8. Ann, it didn’t occur to me till now – my kids are exactly like Finn! The same struggles day in and day out, year after year. Although my husband and I try to explain our actions and expectations to them to get them to understand and to make cooperation easier, it doesn’t always work out. Like you, we never resort to bribing; like you, I am more inclined to tip the bed to get them moving in my direction, so to speak.

    But you are so right, you know. There comes a point when we have to stop and take stock: is life all about having our way or is it more about compromise? When the kids were young, it was important that we show them how to live right. But inevitably, there will come the day when they will want to do things differently. It’s a humbling moment alright, when we come to realise that there is more than one way to do things right.

    As you live on in hope, so do we with the Finns we have, that it’ll get easier some day.

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    • I couldn’t agree more! When our kids were young, we had to teach them our way, because they didn’t know how to do much of anything for themselves, and part of parenting is doing our best to instill our values in our children. But there does come a time when they become old enough that they begin to form their own opinions and have their own way of doing things, and then compromise creeps into the equation. I think that’s a good thing, because it prepares us all for when they completely grow up and move out on their own. Usually I am beyond proud of how my adult son and daughter do things, and other times I find myself thinking, “where did I go wrong?” But when I think a bit more, I realize that I didn’t go wrong at all…they just have a different way of looking at things and a different set of priorities sometimes, and that’s okay!

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  9. Oh, dear, Ann, are you telling me this doesn’t get any better??? Monkey is down for the count by 8 p.m. and refuses to potty at his “final pee call” an hour or so later. That means I have to set my alarm for midnight and get him outside then — or he’d never make it through the night. Grr. These pups have US trained, don’t they?!?

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    • Well, you still have hope because Monkey is so young. We didn’t get Finn until he was around a year old, so he had many of his habits already formed by then, and one of them is that he prefers to go to sleep early in the evening and stay there, undisturbed. Monkey may go to bed a bit later as he matures, and I really hope he does! Because yes, our pets do a wonderful job of training us to accommodate their wishes!

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  10. You are so right about how we persist in our thinking even when the odds of someone else changing their behavior is very unlikely. But wishing does not make it so. It is a hard dose of reality; as the saying goes, we can change our reaction to someone else’s behavior, but we can’t change them or the situation. Compromise is the key…perhaps, it is the only key. 🙂 Great post…we all need reminding with this particular issue!

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    • Thanks, Linda! You’re so right…we can control our own reactions to what we face, but we can’t really control other people’s. Personally, I’m a big fan of compromise. It seems to be a lost art these days, but honestly, it is the way that problems are solved and that we move forward. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  11. Apologies, Ann as I’m still catching up. The two Finns are so alike. Gosh it is frustrating. And yes, it is so very like the human world. I’ve found that where one person fails to elicit a changed behaviour in our Fynn, another family member might prove more convincing. How like the human world this example is too.

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  12. I love the way you weave a bit of every day doggy drama into a life lesson and message Ann. I can relate to this with Harry and, like you, for many years we went through this scenario. But less than two years ago (why did we wait so long) we installed a doggy door which enables Harry to come in and out all my himself whenever nature’s calling. Best thing we ever did. And I’m sure he loves the independence!

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  13. Finn is adorable! I don’t blame him for not wanting to get out of his cozy bed to go outside. We have the opposite problem with our cat, we can’t get him to come in before we go to bed at night.

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    • Thanks, Kim! Sometimes he even goes into his crate early in the evening and makes it very clear he does NOT want to come out of it again. Isn’t it funny how our pets have their own ideas of how things should be? Good luck with your cat!

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