“The difference between a mental and physical memory is that while the mental memory is remembered, often erronoeously, physical memory is relived, and the body is never wrong about the past....... ...a dog can't remember yet it never forgets”
....'Your Dog is Your Mirror', Kevin Behan
I have to admit that I struggled to understand this concept when I read it,
it seemed to be contradictory. But. once again I have been educated, when Archie and Jack enacted out a perfect example of this principle.
I was preparing the dogs' meal and had left some very smelly tripe on the work surface while I went to retrieve their bowls. Archie and Jack were in the kitchen. Archie was a bit of a counter-surfer and Jack has learnt to sit patiently drooling. All of a sudden Jack was attacking Archie, seemingly out of character for a hound who is normally placid.
I broke up the fray and finished feeding them. At the time I was just in from work, rushing about, cooking meals, organising dogs, desperate to be able to just sit down and relax. So taking the principles of NDT I had to accept that I had contributed to the energy of the situation. I knew that the incident had the potential to cause lasting problems between the two dogs.
Later that evening I let them out into the garden to see how they were together. Archie was clearly traumatised, standing still, ears back, hackles raised, avoiding Jack as much as possible. He had definitely not forgotten Jack's attack. Jack, on the other hand, was approaching Archie, play-bowing, wagging his tail, sniffing his ears, barking loudly, trying to get the previously boisterous response from Archie. Jack couldn't remember what had happened. Archie would stand stiffly and then when Jack's antics subsided move out the way.
Later the two dogs came across each other at a doorway in the house. Archie tried to sidle past Jack uneasily, hackles raised. Jack's happy demeanour changed as Archie walked past and Jack's hackles raised and he growled. What I took from this was that Archie was 'not forgetting' the experience of the attack. Jack, on the other hand wasn't remembering but he was just reading Archie in the moment and perceiving a threat.
I restricted their interactions to outside for a few weeks, under my supervision, being careful to make sure I was feeling relaxed at these times. Eventually they were comfortable playing with each other again.
Archie stayed wary of Jack in the kitchen, which is probably a good thing. I have further confirmation that Jack needs some deeper work on releasing his blocks and, once again, I have a reminder to remain conscious in the moment, with myself.
The learning reminds me of a quote
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
Maya Angelou (author of 'Why a Caged Bird Sings')
I guess you can apply that to dogs too.