Origami & the art of folding behavior
When we fold a piece of paper, even if we return the paper to its original shape, the memory of that fold remains. When we are building different objects out of paper we might create a fold which we do not intend to use right away, but will return to it further along in the process of making our creation, using the memory of the fold to more easily mold the paper into the shape we want.
Anytime my dogs perform a behavior, whether I have encouraged it in one way or another, positively or negatively, I am forming creases that will either help or hinder me in the future when I try to create new objects of art; a dog that ‘folds’ into an alert ‘sit’ or a puppy that erupts into joy when a new person or dog appears on the scene. Or perhaps a dog that cringes with the memory of a thumbnail used too forcefully to sharpen a crease.
Puppies don’t enter the world blank sheets of paper. The stress and anxiety their mother experienced left imprints of folds on them. When we handle these puppies we risk running our thumbnail along those creases to sharpen them. Or alternately, as it seems more often to be the case with puppies, thankfully, the folds guide the pup into behaviors that cause our own creases to melt into shapes of compassion and joy. Or the folds may have been applied by the life our dogs lived or endured before they came to us.
Every interaction I have with a dog forms a crease, as does the behavior of the dog. What shape do I want those impressions of folds to take on? My role as leader, teacher, parent, trainer or owner is important not only because I am responsible for creating shapes but because I am also creating the patterns and cultures my dogs can expect and emulate. My goal for all my dogs is that even if I am not there to nudge them into behaviors that they effortless flow into the myriad of beautiful designs we’ve experimented with and practiced. For my fearful dog I hope that the imprints of his early experiences continue to fade and one day will be lost among the new folds of the shining star he is shaping out to be.