Solutions rather than conflict
Sometimes a conflict between pups and others, whether they be other pups of trainers, can seem to have just escalated from a misunderstanding. Knowing some strategies to minimize conflict and avoid a misunderstanding escalating can help prevent aggression being used against you pup. It won’t prevent bullying and intimidation, but you can do a lot to sidestep a fight that you don’t want to have.
Problems are trigger points for conflict, and often a pup wanting to avoid argument and possible hostility will simply hide and do nothing. Avoiding talking about problems won’t help anybody pup. You can duck and hide and hope a problem won’t be noticed and become a point of conflict with someone. Ironically, avoiding conflict like this can sometimes actually ensure a problem develops into conflict! The fact is problems are going to occur in human pup play, and it is best you have a method or way of discussing them.
Whether problems are with an owner and trainer or another pup, the way you deal with it is the same – avoid dwelling on the problem, focus on the solution.
How to mention there is a problem
If you begin discussing problems with sentences that start with “You…” or “Why…”, problems are likely going to be points of conflict, not dialogue. That means that by asking “why do you always…” or “you did this wrong..” are more than likely to just lead to arguing about the problem, not leading towards finding solutions. If the first words out of your mouth sound accusing to the other person, then you have gone straight to a fight, even if you didn’t mean to. Just about everyone gets defensive and hostile when accused of doing wrong. Beginning a discussion in fight mode is often setting yourself up for being bullied pup. Someone who is accused immediately feels threatened, and will probably fight back to an imagined or implied threat. You don’t have to threaten someone to make them hostile, you just have to accuse them pup. So it is vitally important to think before you speak when discussing a problem, and avoid blaming or guilting statements.
Don’t start the fight by sounding accusatory
The second step is to concentrate on a solution and not the problem. Very few problems in human pup play are insurmountable, and there simple things you can do to push towards solutions together.
When you describe the problem, “own” what you are saying pup. Avoid saying “you…” and instead say “I…” or “My…” and explain what the problem means to you in your experience. Explain what is happening to you, the problem as you see it and feel it, of course avoiding sounding accusatory. This means you are approaching your fellow pup or owner and trainer in an assertive manner, clearly showing you are invested in finding a solution to the problem. You aren’t accusing them of anything, you are just stating what you are going through with the problem.
Speak about a problem from your point of view and own that you are experiencing it
The third step, when you hear a counter argument to what you have just said pup, listen as calmly as you can. Hear the owner or pup out, because if a person gets cut off a lot they can escalate to intimidation. They can imagine they are threatened somehow, and react badly to that. After hearing any counter arguments to what you have expressed as your experience, go ahead and ask some questions of the other person. Draw them out, using your questions to ask them to share and explain where they are coming from. Just remember to avoid asking “why…” questions, such as “why do you think that?”. Instead just ask the person to describe what they see happening with the problem. It might seem to you that you aren’t defending your point of view, that you are giving the other person all the airtime. Take a moment to realise – you are just listening respectfully. You have stated your issue. You don’t need to hammer it home, nor argue against what they think or experience. That kind of thinking is exactly what leads to hostility and escalates to conflict. Instead, you are directing and being assertive about solving a problem. You have stated the issue, described it for you, listened to their experience calmly. Here is where you finish off talking pup, with a solution to the problem.
Listen to what they say in response to your stating a problem and find out calmly what they think
Finding solutions is done by choosing your words even more carefully. Look for “options”, “ideas”, “suggestions”, “recommendations” to “solve” the problem. You obviously focus together as much s possible to find a solution that works for you both.
The fact that you are choosing to dialogue, to talk out your problems is not a failure or sign of weakness pup. Approach your problems with sincerity and calm, avoid blaming and accusation, and it is always easier to discuss things.
Find a solution together by workshopping possibilities and choosing together what works
Of course, all your reasonable attempts at positive and healthy communication can be for nothing as a bully is determined to be confrontational and harassing. You will have spoken your mind fairly and can move on and avoid the conflict and aggression, having done the best possible to try and stop it occurring. You can know that by seeking solutions to problems rather than fighting for little reason, you might actually help avert a potential bully be helping teach the skills finding a better way forward.