Diva, our three-year-old miniature dachshund, is the one squeaky wheel in our house. She can be pushy, demanding, and vocal. The shrill noises emanating from our cuddly little cutie translate to, “Throw my ball!” or “Pay attention to me!”
We’re dealing with her shriekish squeaks because I screwed up. I’m good with managing pushy horses and people, but I became Captain Enabler to the 11-pound Doxie. I made excuses for her because her housemate was profoundly autistic. After losing the autistic dog earlier this year, Diva is slowly becoming the perfect dog—except for being a squeak-monster.
She’s improving there as well because the most astonishing thing happened. Whenever Diva squeaks or demands attention, she turns into Ghost Dog—we don’t see her and we don’t hear her.
There’s no payoff for ghost dogs.
A few years ago we spent a delightful day with family: six adults and one nine-year-old boy. He was used to lots of attention as the only child still at home. We grown-ups were busy catching up and, as far as I was concerned, he wasn’t the center of my attention.
Like any kid with his history, he tried to remedy the situation. He wanted me to pay attention to him, but I don’t respond well to demands. So, I made a deal with him—run around the house four times and then we’d play a game.
He agreed and burst out the door, quickly making it around the house the first time. He came back in and plopped down right next to me. I asked him if he’d already run around four times.
Not Just Ghost Dogs, but Ghost Kids
After letting him know that he blew his end of the deal, I ignored him. Totally. Like any kid, he tried to block my line of sight and insert himself into my space. In situations like this, bad grease is making eye contact or reacting to shenanigans.
Like Diva the Ghost Dog, the young man ceased to exist in my world. He asked why and I told him. Eventually he figured out that I wasn’t going to pay attention to him. After decades training stallions, a nine-year old kid wasn’t a big deal.
“It’s your choice. Either you keep your end of the bargain or you don’t exist.”
He knew I wouldn’t blink first. Without another word he was out the door and ran around the house three more times. The rest of the day was fabulous.
Why did he single me out? I suspect it’s because I was the only challenge in the room. We’ve gotten along beautifully ever since. Years later, the now late teen-ager needed a ride but didn’t want to dress appropriately. I gave him two options. He changed clothes without another word and the day was perfect.
Enablers inspire problems, never confidence.
I have dozens of pushy, rude, or demanding horse stories, but they follow the same track as Diva the squeak-shrieker and the young man. When horses acts out and I’m not prepared to redirect their feet immediately, they become Ghost Horses.
After all, they can’t expect me to react to something I don’t see or hear.
Like the young man, every horse recovers from Ghost status once it believes me, trusts me, and knows that I won’t blink first.
Leaders ignore squeaky wheels and pushy behavior until they’re ready to engage with purpose and intention to create a positive result. This isn’t always easy, especially when the squeak hurts your ears and threatens to push your annoyance meter into the red zone.
11 Tips To Manage Irritating Squeaky Wheels
- The fix begins by ignoring the behavior (unless it’s dangerous.)
- Don’t attack the problem itself—solve the underlying issue.
- The currency of leadership is trust–strengthen the relationship.
- Never lose your cool.
- Give squeaky wheels other options.
- Trust is earned.
- Obedience is a gift.
- If the dog, kid, or horse is moving, they usually quit squeaking.
- Applying bad grease doesn’t help anyone.
- Insecurity causes squeaky wheels, never strength.
- If you can’t enforce it, don’t say it.
- It takes as long as it takes. Don’t quit.
Fix Squeaky Wheels with Leadership
The good grease for squeaky wheels is leadership, not punishment. Squeaky wheels can’t support a car or achieve a goal if you demolish them with a jack hammer. But, you can’t establish right relationship or guide another to a boldness born of confidence until the tantrums go away.
“Stop!” doesn’t cut it unless you’ve laid a whole lot of fabulous foundation to support it. When used properly, “Stop” is only a whisper, the last resort when your raised eyebrow needs backup. Whenever you have to go to the second step, verbalization, immediately put reinforcing lessons on your schedule.
God Loves Squeaky Wheels into Peace
Whether it’s a pushy child, shriekish Dachshund, or demanding horse, the goal is never to correct a specific fault but to invest in relationship by giving the gift of respect, confidence, immovable boundaries, and connection. Which means, no indulgence and no bad grease.
Sometimes I suspect God thinks we sound a bit like Diva the shriek-monster. I’m grateful to state that even when I’ve been most annoying to my heavenly Father, no lightning bolt of correction came.
His model is to love us into confidence and faith with good grease until we’re silent, bold, and willing to consider the options placed before us, always choosing to do His will with delight.
Photo: Diva the Dachshund
Spiritual Warfare: Transforming Evils Into Bouquets
Step-By-Step Way to Manage Pushy Horses
Horses can be just as squeaky as miniature dachshunds, but the size difference pushes annoying into dangerous. Food aggression is common and many horses get a bit ugly at chowtime.
This post was inspired by Ace, a formerly quiet gelding who became a squeaky wheel when he moved from the pasture to the barn for training.
The steps I used to resolve his issues, the reasons why each one was important, and why the effort was the best thing for Ace are detailed in He Came Looking for Me. Spanning two chapters, it begins in Ace’s Tantrums and finishes in Turning Up Ace’s Flame.
If you love ’em, you have to help ’em.