The weekend that Seize the Leash just had really started me thinking about training, relationships and responsibility in regards to ourselves, others in our lives and our pets. The turning point was an evaluation we did for a stray dog that a woman started feeding and gaining the trust of and eventually let live in her backyard. No one else in the household wanted this dog invading their lives and one member of the household is terrified of dogs in general. Now no one except the woman can go out in the backyard because the dog trusts no one and is willing to bite to make sure that he remains in possession of both the yard and the woman.
I have seen this type of scenario all too often. I have seen too much responsibility taken and not enough. I have seen and felt, blame, shame, and regret for having accepted a committment to another living creature. Sometimes I've wondered if the scenarios that I'm faced with were created for the sole purpose of having something to do to stave off boredom or for needing some kind of purpose in life. Occassionally, I have even seen a relationship that was created for the purpose of "being right" and others "being wrong".
Dogs have taught me many things over the years - committment and responsibility being the biggest for me because I have a tendency to procrastinate and take the easy road and the short cuts with my life rather.
What I have learned from dogs and their owners and am still learning:
Be a dog. Live as much in the present as it's possible to do. Do not regret what you've done in the past or worry about what the future will be. You create your future by your actions of today.
Choose to be in the moment with your dog. Let go of what happened in the past and create a better future by living now. You are always at a point of choice in your life. When making your choices in your day to day life you are affecting more than just you and most importantly you are affecting your dog.
Maintain your intergrity. Don't compromise yourself because of what others think or say. You must be a person of your word. Personal integrity will carry over to each and every part of your life. You can't have it in one area and not have it in another. Part of this is that you have to know what you want and who you are. Don't let others definte you or how you live your life or interact with your dog.
Take full responsibility for your relationships. Responsibility is not blame, it's the willingness to be the one in control of any situation or relationship and understand that control does not mean actually making others move.
Building a solid relationship with your dog is a must. If you have a good solid relationship with your dog, she will want to be where you are, doing what you do, constantly checking in with you to see what's new and exciting. She will not seek out other people, or other dogs to interact with. Your dog will be all about you, and what you get to do together.
Commit. Keep your commitments, re-examine the commitments that you didn’t really want to make and recommit to what is acceptable. Make sure that what you are doing is what you really want to do. Be happy with your decisions.
Be aware of your emotions. Be aware of your thoughts when interacting with your dog. Frustration is one of the worst emotions to bring to training. If you are feeling frustrated, it's a short hop to hanging your dog by the neck via it's leash and collar or heading to the pet store and buying a shock collar. Your thoughts can uplift you, yet they can also create sadness, fear, anger, etc. Learning to be aware of your thoughts and how they create your reality is a necessary tool when training your dog.
Express how you feel. User a variety of communicative methods to show others and your dog your real thoughts and feelings. Give yourself full permission to feel what you are feeling and be willing to share that. Love your dog through the way you teach him
Move. Dance, leap, fly, swim, do something. Don't stagnate, be fluid and creative. Movement is change and without change there is nothing. You have to have change and movement to be creative and to formulate ideas. A stiff body is much harder to create solutions from. Dogs rarely stop moving unless they are resting.
Learn how to communicate. Any method of training should be taken from a dogs point of view, and use the natural forms of communication that most dogs learn as puppies. It really doesn't matter what you want your dog to learn. If YOU learn to communicate to her in a language that she understands and if you learn how to set things up so she can figure things out for herself, teaching becomes very simple.
Be a true leader. Leadership is about trust and respect; it's not about overpowering or dominating a dog physically. It's about letting him be a dog and doing dog things, but shaping the context in which he does them. People and dogs want to be led and they want a leader who will keep them on track. If you ask me it is a sort of survival instinct. People may grumble because you may force them out of their comfort zone but they will follow you. Your personal integrity will show up in every aspect of your life.
Know your stories. It can be beneficial to know the stories that you have in your subconscious mind. Realize that they are the past and commit to being fully within yourself in the present moment. You are you and you are not your stories.
As I write more and more and I realize that I write what I am inspired to write. I realize that some people may not understand what this has to do with owning a business or with training your personal dog. I will keep it this answer simple.
The more authentic and present we are with ourselves, the more responsibility we assume in our relationships with ourselves, with other people, or with our dogs. The more committment we create in these relationships the closer we become and the easier our relationships become. As a dog trainer it is important for my clients to understand that training our dogs is small part of a bigger picture. If we practice the above exercises training is easy. It is no longer stressful or controlling.