“I’ll be back.” It’s interesting how powerful three simple words can be. When sitting with a friend who gets up and says “I’ll be back,” their intent is clear, and we know what we’re supposed to do in the meantime.
But imagine what your experience might be if your friend just gets up and wanders off without any further information. How would that make you feel? Would you be confused? Concerned? Might you be angry? Perhaps annoyed? While each of us might experience it differently, one thing is certain. It would leave us feeling uneasy to some degree.
It’s not much of a stretch to believe that dogs might also feel uncomfortable when we walk away from them without any other communication, and yet we often forget to include them in our plan. Some dogs may take it in stride, but it may concern others greatly. When the dog understands what “I’ll be back” means, it can take some of the worry away.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with some folks whose dogs experience varying levels of crate anxiety. Using Suzanne Clothier’s well thought out process of teaching “I’ll be back,“ we started with the handlers facing their dogs in crates, saying “I’ll be back”, turning away from the dog for a second, then turning back and giving a treat. By the end of class handlers were leaving the classroom after saying “I’ll be back” and then coming back in to reward the dogs at their crates. Bonus for the dogs: other handlers were stopping by to reward with treats while their handlers were away. By the end of the class some dogs were so busy watching what everyone else was doing that they didn’t even notice that their handler had returned! There was a lot of great learning that happened that day, and a lot of confusion and concern about being left in a crate was washed away.
I teach my dogs the skill of “I’ll be back.” When we load up in the van and I’ve forgotten something in the house, I let them know I’ll be back. In the event that I need someone to hold my dogs’ leash so I can use the bathroom, I let them know I’ll be back before I leave. But I don’t think I realized just how valuable “I’ll be back” was until today.
This morning I dropped my dog Diva off to be spayed. I was grateful for the opportunity to walk her back and put her in her assigned cage myself, and I made sure to tell her “I’ll be back” before I walked away. I’d like to think it offered her some comfort today. I know it comforted me, and I’ll keep holding onto that until I pick her up later this afternoon.
Just some food for thought. That’s all for now, but rest assured . . . I’ll be back!
(If you’re interested in some of the other things I’ve done to prepare Diva for today’s surgery, you’ll find more details here.)