There’s something so adorable about a dog who has found something interesting – cute perky ears, flagpole tail, the jumpy body, the nose down, the wide eyes.
Typically, our dog is quite reluctant to try new things. He has a tight event-reaction connection: a loud noise leads to continued wariness, seemingly into perpetuity. When a door clanged behind him, scaring him, it took no less than 3 years and countless patient reinforcement until he was able to come through that door on his own without encouragement.
Most of the time, his curiosity leads him in a direction without any negative reaction: the wee grey mouse running alongside our house just slips under the deck, chasing the squirrels scampering on our fence hop into the neighbour’s yard, our toes disappearing under a blanket are still actually attached to our feet.
…curiosity yields an unexpected reaction. Approaching a skunk does not make it run under the fence, sniffing a lawn chair can make it fall over, and stepping off a dock makes for a very wet dog. It can be hard for me not to create an even bigger reaction. And it can be frustrating for me when more care in future, similar, situations isn’t taken and it appears no learning has occurred.
How was curiosity handled when you were a kid? How curious are you now? Do you seek novelty as an adult? Are your friends curious?
The way in which adults respond to dogs, kids, and each other sends a message which will help shape our ideas of curiosity and risk and resilience. How we feel about ourselves after seeking the unexpected will influence whether we seek it out again.
Trio are away with their dad right now, and I genuinely hope their curiosity is being stoked up – they are in a different province, with new experiences, and are with adults they don’t often spend time with: there is so much possibility for New Things!
With each exposure to a new thing they learn more about themselves and their world. Even if it’s an unexpected outcome, the learning is rich – although it can be hard to define what that learning has been. It doesn’t necessarily translate into something I recognize. But an easy one to see is that even if it’s uncomfortable for a while, they learn they can handle what comes.
This is a lifelong learning: one I’m still working on… 🙂