I’ve learned a lot of my life lessons from obstacles I run into with my dogs. In my attempts to figure out how to live in the greatest harmony with my dogs, and how to create the healthiest, most connected bond I can, I’ve learned many invaluable truths about life itself. I’m sure this is true for anyone when they practice whatever it is in their life they are passionate about, including their career or raising children. But the opposite is also true, when I learn something in an area of my life unrelated to dogs, I simply apply it to my relationship with Sophie and Eva, ét voilá, presto change-o, it works.
Recently I started doing some consciousness work as it relates to prayer, meditation, and shifting focus. Something I’ve gathered in my research about how the Universe operates is that it responds much better to positive statements rather than negative ones. When you say that you “don’t like” something, or “don’t want” something, what you’re focusing on is the very thing you want to go away. This tends to be problematic. As Robert Anton Wilson said: “Most problems exist because the verbal formula you put them in creates the problem.”
So in applying this to my dog training–and I actually hesitate to call it training, because I don’t really believe I’m training the dogs, it’s more like they are training me–I’ve started rephrasing the way I talk to my dogs. A perfect example just occurred a few minutes ago. Eva picked up a sponge that was on the floor, and I obviously did not want her eating it. I gently put my hand on the sponge and said something in the negative like: “You can’t have that.” I may have also given the sponge a gentle pull and said “I don’t want you to eat that.” You know, the normal repertoire of things you would say to a dog or even a child who possesses an object they shouldn’t. Well, she was not going to give up that sponge! So I paused, let go of the sponge and decided to rephrase my request in a positive formula: “I would like…” And as soon as I said the word “would” she dropped the sponge and I picked it up and there was no fuss about it. I didn’t even get the sentence out of my mouth. I believe that because the energy or intention behind the words had shifted, we were no longer in opposition to each other. She was no longer doing something she shouldn’t, she was in the act of doing something she should, which was to let go of the thing I wanted her to give up.
So I’ve started to shift the way I communicate with my dogs. Instead of focusing on what it is they’re doing “wrong,” and saying “no” all the time, I’ve started saying things like, “I would like,” or “I love it when you’re a good girl.” It may sound cheesy, it may sound like woo-woo to many of you. But just try it. And if you don’t have a dog, try it with your children. And if you don’t have children try it with your parents, friends, boss, etc. A small shift can make a world of difference.
All this also makes me realize that we tend to compartmentalize our lives way too much. Because we think dog training is totally different from and unrelated to something like teaching yoga, running a business, raising children or being in a relationship. But honestly, it’s called the Universe for a reason. It’s one song. When you learn how to be a good “dog-trainer” what you may not realize is that you are learning to be good at everything.