This post is a story of how a rescue dog taught me a lesson in how to be confident.
This past weekend a few good friends of mine ask me to stay with their dog, Scooby, for 4 days while they travel to Los Angeles for a seminar. I say no problem, and that I am happy to stay with him for a few days. I have stayed with him 2 times before, so a third time shouldn’t be a problem.
Before I go any further in talking about how Scooby taught me how to be confident, let me tell you a little bit more about Scooby.
Scooby is a rescue dog. One of my best friends, “L”, picks him up when he is still under a year old, and discovers that he has been through some trauma. If you look at Scooby’s right hind leg you can see that he is missing 2 toenails on his foot and it also seems that his foot has been either crushed or mutilated in some way.
You can imagine how traumatizing Scooby’s time with his pre-Rescue owner is, and it shows in his personality. The first time I meet Scooby, my friend L comes to greet me in front of his house before I get a chance to knock on the front door. I hear consistent snarling and loud barking behind the door.
He says “ OK. So here are a few ground rules. Scooby is a great guy, but he doesn’t know you and doesn’t know what you are capable of, so he won’t trust you right away. He barks and seems menacing at first, but just ignore him. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t touch him. Don’t try to pet him. Just pretend like he isn’t even there, and we will all have a great time.”
Naturally this gets me a little nervous. The dog I grow up with in my parents house is a Shih Tzu, which is about 10 pounds soaking wet and resembles a teddy bear mixed with a panda in a miniaturized dog form. Super cute, such a sweetheart, and wouldn’t harm a fly even if she was strong enough.
Scooby, on the other hand, weighs around 90- 95 lbs. He isn’t great dane sized, but he’s a big, beautiful, athletic dog. I’m generally not afraid of dogs, but this is my first time being around a big dog that doesn’t trust me and approaches me with a defensive, yet aggressive attitude.
So I go inside, ignore Scooby to the best of my ability, but I love dogs, and my natural instinct is to try and befriend him. I try to touch Scooby a few times when he walks by, only to see his lip curl before baring his teeth, or actually snapping at me and snarling at me.
It’s weird, and I continue to try to befriend Scooby, without success, every time I go over to L’s house. Eventually I am asked to dog sit Scooby while L’s family goes to his graduation ceremony.
I agree, and as preparation I come over to spend time with Scooby around 3 times a week for 3 consecutive weeks leading up to the days I will be dog sitting Scooby. During this time, I take Scooby on walks, give him treats and bones, and play tug-of-war with him in the back yard. It seems that we are bonding.
One-on-One with Scooby
Finally, the day of judgement arrives and I am alone with Scooby for the first time, without any of his family members around as a buffer.
We do not get off to the best start.
I come to the house after getting off of work, and unlock the front door. Scooby is in the living room laying on the couch. He is not happy. He isn’t approaching me or being aggressive towards me, and he definitely remembers who I am. But he is growling, snarling, and definitely not happy to be in this uncomfortable situation without a family member around.
I remember the Scooby code – “Pretend he’s not there and do your own thing”.
I’m hungry so I grab some chicken out of the fridge, heat it up, and start eating. I can see Scooby eyeballing me in my peripheral vision, and eventually he walks up to me. He seems interested in the chicken, and I don’t really want to hand feed him at this point, so when I’m done I leave a morsel of chicken on the plate, and hold it out for him while he eats the chicken and licks the plate.
I continue to do my own thing, opening the door for him every now and again to let him go in the back yard, and he loves to go on walks so I even get him to go on a walk with me.
At this point he is warming up to me, even coming over to sit next to me on the couch while I watch tv.
This is where I make my first mistake.
He walks over to the couch to sit next to me. I immediately, and stupidly, reach out to pet him. Before my hand gets 6 inches off my lap Scooby’s head snaps up, he bares his teeth, and starts snarling and barking at me.
I remember the rules, get up and do my own thing. Not reacting and just walking away is probably the smartest move I make during that first visit, and it prepares me well for future encounters.
It’s not that Scooby is a madman, he’s not. He just gets a little jumpy sometimes, and doesn’t know me as well as his family.
Scooby and I continue to bond, and the rest of the dog sitting adventure goes very well, because I stick to the rules and generally ignore him, still slipping up a few times and getting negative reactions out of Scooby by trying to befriend him and exposing my own neediness.
This is the end of my first time dog sitting with Scooby. I dog sit him once more after that, but it is not until the 3rd time I stay with Scooby that I have my breakthrough.
I’ve been around Scooby in one-on-one situations for around a week at this point, so I’m much more comfortable around him and have an idea of what to expect and how to behave around him. But I still don’t totally “get” him. Even after this breakthrough I still believe that there will always be something to learn from Scooby. He’s the ultimate self-improvement course. The guy is like an onion. There’s always another layer.
So I’m sitting on the couch taking some notes for work with the tv on in the background, and a familiar situation arises. Scooby walks over to the couch, and lies down next to me.
Having learned my lesson, I continue to take notes and listen to the tv in the background.At this point, I’m becoming much better at staying focused on my own life instead of trying to get Scooby to like me every time he comes within arm’s reach.
I continue working for a few minutes, before I feel Scooby’s wet nose nudging my hand. I’ve encountered this before. Scooby wants me to pet him, it’s just that in this situation, he is inviting and asking me to pet him, instead of me trying to appease him.
I remember past experiences petting him, and I don’t overdo it. I pet him for 5-10 seconds at a time and then stop. If he nudges me or invites me to pet him again, I do it for another 5-10 seconds, perhaps a little bit longer to get him more comfortable by slowly increasing petting time. Using this approach, I am able to pet Scooby on and off for pretty much as long as I want, because he is the one in control, asking for my affection instead of me forcing it upon him.
I won’t go into every little detail of my interactions with Scooby, but this is the most important lesson I learned.
Scooby teaches me to be a better listener
Instead of trying to approach Scooby whenever I wanted to feel like he likes me, I do my own thing, and let Scooby tell me when he wants some affection. It turns out, when you approach things this way, Scooby is one of the sweetest and gentlest dogs you will ever meet, and he actually gives you more opportunities to give him affection than you actually want.
When I have this breakthrough, it’s like we become best friends, each doing our own thing, and hanging out when it is convenient. Whenever Scooby comes around, I just say “what’s up Scoob”, and let him hang around. Most of the time he just likes to enjoy someone’s presence and hang out, rather than being smothered.
*APPLICATIONS: (re-read this paragraph if you are a young man chasing girls. Girls don’t like to be smothered, they want a guy who has his life together and is focused on his goals and passions instead of trying to please her and impress her all the time. Don’t make girls your number one priority in life. It’s not what you should want, it’s not what they want, and you’re not doing anybody any favors by being so needy all the time.)*
Scooby teaches me to focus on my own path in life
Instead of focusing on my own neediness and desire for this dog to approve of me and like me, I do my own thing and live my own life. Eventually he comes around and invites me to pet him, and I am happy to give him the affection. I can’t tell you how much this helps me in my interactions with other people.
Ever spend time around someone you want to be friends with? If you have then you probably have been in a situation where you try way too hard to be this person’s friend by trying to impress them or be too friendly, and you end up driving them away.
You’ve also probably experienced being on the other side of the table, where someone is trying way too hard to be your friend. There’s a neediness there, and it shows weakness. If you’ve ever been in that situation before, you generally want nothing to do with the person who shows this neediness and is trying so hard.
Scooby teaches me to be stronger, more confident, and less needy, and that people generally let you know through their actions, words, or body language what they need or want at any one moment. In the meantime it’s best to just do your own thing.
Another major thing I learn with Scooby is how my body language and movements affects our interactions.
Ever been around someone who is jumpy? Making jerky and jittery movements all the time, and just a little shifty? In most cases, these people seem insecure and untrustworthy. It just makes them seem like they are hiding something, for some reason it comes off sketchy and weird.
With Scooby, I learned to make slow, deliberate movements. Go on YouTube and watch a James Bond clip. This is a guy who moves slowly, with grace and power. He isn’t jumpy, shifty, or unsure in his movements. He goes slowly, is easy going, and inspires confidence. Try walking somewhere or doing something in slow motion. Chances are you will not only look more confident, but also feel more confident and powerful while looking like a badass in the process. Try slowing down your speech as well to magnify the effect.
When I make jumpy, quick movements around Scooby, he always seems like he’s on high alert. I slow things down, and all of a sudden Scooby is much more comfortable around me, and as a result of my confidence, he is much more insistent in approaching me and asking for affection. He’s a social animal, and a pack animal, like humans are, and he just wants a strong presence around to inspire confidence and security.
So take a lesson from the master himself, Scooby:
- focus on your own path
- stop being so needy, do your own thing. When you are focused on your own life and live with confidence, people will come to your aid and you will have more than enough affection and love in your life simply because of the confidence you inspire in others. If you are a beacon of confidence of strength, people will come to your side simply to be in your presence.
- move slowly, speak slowly, and live with more confidence and strength
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