Fostering Dog Forgiveness

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Our dog, Cody, may be small in size, but he carries the demeanor of a big dog. He’s amiable, but he doesn’t tolerate rough handling.

Last summer, Cody had a heated encounter with our neighbor’s dog, Chino. I’m unsure whether Cody or Chino started it, but they’ve been sworn enemies ever since. As a result, when we see Chino go for a walk, my neighbor or I have to cross the street to ensure the two dogs don’t get too close. When Cody sees Chino, Cody tends to adopt an aggressive stance, which means my shoulder gets pulled out of its joint.

I’m actively working on instilling a sense of compassion and forgiveness in Cody. When we spot Chino nowadays, I take a playful approach. I bend down, say, “It’s Chino,” ask Cody to sit, and then reward him with a treat. I remind him that we are a peaceful family and that Chino is our neighbor. We’re progressing, as Cody is mostly growling now instead of lunging on the leash.

In all honesty, we’ve invested a significant amount of time in training, so Cody’s positive response might be more tied to the treats than my messages about our family values.

Forgiveness is a valuable skill to cultivate, and I’m continually inspired by people who exemplify it. I have a friend who served in Vietnam, losing comrades during the war. For the past three decades, he has regularly traveled back to Vietnam, assisting children in the villages where he once fought. Today, he resides in one of those villages, is married to a Vietnamese woman, and collaborates with youth organizations.

A straightforward approach to forgiveness is encapsulated in the “4 Rs of Forgiveness”:

  1. Responsibility: Acknowledge that the situation occurred.
  2. Remorse: Recognize your role and publicly acknowledge it.
  3. Restoration: Make amends with the person you want to forgive.
  4. Renew: Celebrate your resilience in taking these forgiveness-building steps.

I’m working on forgiving Cody for hindering my interactions with my neighbor. I hope he’ll join me in embracing the spirit of compassion.

© Richard Citrin 2023

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