June @ The Beach – thoughts on overcoming fear

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June, our 2.5-year-old German Shepherd spent a day on the beach with us. The open space, the sun, the sand….all of it made us eager to get there. The water though didn’t hold out much excitement for us since we believed that she has a mild form of Hydrophobia (as do I; maybe it’s genetic!!). Plenty of myths exist about some breeds’ fears, including that pointy eared dogs dislike water. The only truth is – and where I am at fault – is that lack of early exposure leads to reluctance.

It started with a good warm up – I got onto an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and sped it for well over a kilometre with June chasing me at full pace for the entire length. Once done, it was time for her favourite fetch game with a tennis ball.

After a while, my 10-year-old son Vyyom bravely decided to venture out into the water (having lived away from the coast since quite a few years now, it was his first time too!). June watched him for a while as he mustered up the courage to keep going further out, stepping back each time a tiny wave got to her feet, continuously whimpering at the growing distance. She gradually kept pushing her boundaries and soon enough got to a depth wherein she needed to paddle to stay afloat. It was a shocker for us having seen her strong reluctance even to get her feet wet every time we tried earlier. This time, without any encouragement, coaxing, or force she comfortably moved ahead. We were beaming with pride, smiling in a way that only a proud parent could (leading the small crowd at the beach to wonder what we had been smoking!).

The reason to my mind could be one of two (or maybe even both). Seeing Vyyom venture forth, she may have felt a strong instinct to protect him – she is very protective of Vyyom since he is the youngest in the family. The other reason (and the more likely one) could be that she saw this kid, who is in a way her ward, doing something that she is hesitant to and this cognitive dissonance helped her to overcome her fear. Either way, seeing her confidence bloom thrilled us no end, goose bumps and all.

How naturally this happened makes me think that kids (canine, human, or any other form) should clearly not be forced to try and overcome their hesitation or fears. They will do it on their own terms, when they feel the time is right; the only thing they need is motivation to do so. But there is something worse than using force; it is not providing them the opportunity to overcome their fears. After all, you can’t overcome what you can’t face! As far as June is concerned, visits to dams, lakes, and this time around the beach are becoming routine and perhaps the recurring exposure helped her to push her limits. If we had assumed that a beach is just not the place for her then all of us would have been so much poorer for the experience and this golden moment would never have happened.

Human children have many temptations to keep them indoors and after a point would be perfectly happy to become couch potatoes. Dogs however need the outdoors (and no, there are no “house” dogs that are meant exclusively for the indoors! Did you know that those cute little Dachshunds are actually hunting dogs?). Take them out as much as you can and let their confidence grow; they’ll take to the outdoors like, well….fish to water! This growing confidence will reflect in lot of their behaviour in everyday circumstances making them happier beings who will pleasantly surprise you all the time.

Now, my only further hope is that her fortnightly baths will become easier after this 😊

For more pics of June @ The Beach: https://photos.app.goo.gl/tEH0Wg8jgPbmjXzE3

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