So I’ve been feeding my dogs The Honest Kitchen Embark formula and loving it. (It’s a raw dehydrated diet, and you can check out the full review here: Canine Supplies with Conscience.) Today I ran out of Honest Kitchen so I had to make my own. This is a sweet potato smoothie for Eva and Sophie. It contains boiled sweet potatoes, raw eggs with shells, kefir, probiotics, baby greens, and Perfect Form (also from Honest Kitchen). Can’t wait for more Embark to arrive tomorrow, it’s too hot to be home-cooking for my doggies! But they love it, so it’s all good.
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.
Your dog always knows when you are holding back. If you don’t mean business, she plays games with you, doesn’t she? She gets inside your head; because truly, no one knows you like your dog. She can sense your energy before you even do. She can feel every mood and anticipate every move.
In dog training, when you hold back your dog holds back, and then you never see her true potential. The same principle is applied to you in your own life: if you hold back, no one will ever see YOUR true potential. And when you interact with others, in relationships of all kinds, even with God or the Universe, that holding back is reflected to you: your relationships will never reach their full potential, and both parties will be unfulfilled. And when your relationship with Life, God, or the Universe goes unfulfilled, you will feel it. A lacking, a sorrow, or maybe that creeping feeling of “hope,” that you “hope” you’re doing it right, but on some level, maybe in your gut, or in your heart, you know something’s not quite right and you deserve more…
And the fault lies in the holding back. Do you feel that someone in your life is not giving you exactly what you need? Ask yourself: am I giving myself what I need? Am I giving the Universe what it needs to assist in ALL my dreams coming true?
Many of us humans have had the pleasure of receiving some sort of bodywork like a massage. But did you know that dogs can benefit from bodywork as well? Whether it’s called Canine Physical Therapy or Canine Rehabilitation, dogs can get the same benefits from bodywork as we do. It can help them recover from injuries and surgery, decrease pain, increase mobility, and is often used as part of a conditioning program for working dogs or dog athletes. But even if the dog isn’t competing in sports or doesn’t have a specific “ailment,” bodywork can increase their range of movement, help prevent injuries, provide relief from emotional stress, and improve their overall well-being.
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Stacy Cote in my New Ventures class. Stacy has a 25-year background in human physical therapy. In 2005 she completed her training and certification in Canine Rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee so she could provide therapy to canines. What’s great about Stacy is that she travels to your home to provide services to your dogs where they feel most comfortable. Shortly after we met, Stacy offered to work on Sophie, my 7 year old boxador. Sophie doesn’t have any particular injuries per se, but her hips have almost always been on the stiff side. I do give my dogs some massage, but what Stacy did was much different. She started with some light massage, getting Sophie relaxed and comfortable with her touch. Then she started feeling and manipulating some of the vertebrae in her back which were twisted. She then moved on to extending her back legs, one at a time until she felt the hips release. Stacy also did some fascia work in different places. After that session, I noticed an immediate difference in Sophie’s gait. Her stride was elongated and relaxed.
And you know how good you feel after walking out of a really good massage? That’s how Sophie looked. I was so used to seeing her walk with her hind end being a bit stiff that it had become sort of “normal” to me. So I was happy to see her moving about in a more fluid fashion.
Stacy came back for a second session with similar results. She taught me a bit about how to stretch and massage my dogs and now I practice on them in the evenings to get them good and relaxed and to hopefully get some of the kinks out of their aging bodies.
I would highly recommend Stacy’s services if you live in Southern Maine. If you are looking for someone outside the Maine area, check with your vet to see if they can make a referral. Or you can check out either of these sites: The American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians and: University of Tennessee Directory of CCRP/CERP Practitioners.