Fear-based obedience

My family is currently fostering yet another Singapore Special (the affectionate term we use to refer to the stray mongrels found in Singapore); he is really sweet, gentle and while he was called a monkey by the previous fosters, has not given us any trouble from ill will. The challenge we have is that he is quite anxious, and jittery most of the times when encountering new things outside. Nevertheless, he is curious and learning fast, so we hope he will overcome his fears one by one and be more adoptable.

No dog is perfect and for most of these mixed breeds who has been living on the street, they are usually naturally selected to be the ones who are quick to run from danger, constantly hiding away, hating novelty and see strangers as bad. These behaviours which lead to their survival out there are mostly driven by fear and anxiety. But these aren’t the behaviours we want in dogs who are pets. They make for poor social companions and have bad social etiquette.

However, they can be trained in the medium to longer term. Mostly through different games, activities and exercises. Looking at my new foster puppy reminds me of just being Singaporeans. We tend to have the reputation of being goody kids, obedient but it’s mostly because of fear. I see how much of my foster dog’s potential forgone because he is so fearful all the time. His great intelligence, sensitivity and gentleness is gone mostly because fear is so overriding. We humans are not so different and I think as Singaporeans, we are mostly still dwelling in a lot of fear. Of the unknowns, of not being well-liked, of being on the ‘wrong side’, of not having enough, and the list goes on.


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  1. […] we build organisations, raise families, work with teams, do we want to create a culture around fear or around support? We know we certainly can get employees, kids and even dogs to obey because of […]