Don’t believe anyone who tells you that, and don’t believe the voice in your head trying to convince you of that either.
“If only I had known better, things would have turned out better”, right?
Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Actually, it’s not really important to know the answer to that question. You are where you are, and the situation is what it is. We can’t go back and change anything. But, we can decide to change direction and set a new course for ourselves and our dogs. That’s all that is needed. No blame, no shame, no judgement.
And no endless training protocols. Just a willingness and openness to see things from a new perspective and to step out of our personal comfort zone, just enough to explore other possibilities.
Do you believe in an infinite universe? With infinite possibilities?
If yes, then could there be infinite possibilities to resolving the challenges you are facing with your dog? I think there are certainly more ways than those we have been taught or shown through mainstream practices. Until now, we have mostly been offered solutions focused on training the dog to do (or not do) certain things, with the aim of resolving behaviours which make our lives pretty uncomfortable at times. But I believe there is another way of looking at it. I believe our dogs come into our lives for a reason. Not only are they our fun, loveable, crazy, clever and special companions - they also offer us opportunities to learn about life, about ourselves and to grow and transform together, if we are ready and open to it. What do I mean by that?
Allow me to share a short story to help explain what I mean.
I have been blessed by a very special dog, Charlie, who came into my life 9 years ago. He challenged me in more ways than I can count. On many occasions his anxious, over-aroused, hyper-sensitive, barky behaviour and constant leash pulling on walks, left me feeling tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, judged, anxious, fearful, sad and even desperate.
I almost gave up on him (and us), a few times.
It certainly felt like I had failed him.
He turned my world upside down, and not in a good way. It’s not that I didn’t love him. In fact it was because I loved him deeply that I didn’t give up on him, and vowed to find a way to help us live a calmer, happier, worry-free life together. The life I had always dreamt of having, and promised him, the day I brought him home from the shelter.
My intention was well meaning - I wanted to help him. I wanted the best for him. I cared about him. As I am sure all of you who are reading this, feel about your dogs too.
There are those times when we were cuddled up at home, in our little safe bubble away from the outside world, where all was quiet and calm, and we felt connected and happy together. I wanted more of this, and less of the other life we had when we stepped out the door to go for walks, or when we found ourselves awkwardly trying to navigate social encounters. I thought that if I could teach Charlie to be less anxious, more polite, and calmer around other dogs and people, that he would be happier too. Wouldn’t he?
I began looking for solutions on how to do this. I tried many different training techniques. Some worked for a while, some didn’t.
But we never really got to a place where we both felt totally safe, calm and connected when we were out and about. I thought I had failed him, and us.
I tried to train more, train harder, tried new things, but it only put more pressure on both of us, leaving me feeling even more incompetent. Until one day, I was finally ready to see things from a totally new perspective. Have you heard this quote: “If you can’t change the circumstances, change your perspective.” You see, I realised that I was looking at Charlie and his behaviour as the source of my unhappiness. If only he was more calm, less reactive and more sociable, then I could be too. But, the truth I discovered was in fact the other way around. Change begins with us. It was when I began to look within, and see what Charlie was reflecting in me, that things started to change - for both of us. By observing my patterned responses to his behaviour, and understanding where these feelings and emotions came from, and what was lying beneath them, I was then able to begin to shift the fears and limiting beliefs which were blocking us both from moving forward and making progress. Through a holistic approach I found ways to help myself feel more balanced and confident. I learned to find peace, acceptance, and unconditional love for myself and for Charlie. I learned to find ways to love our life, and do more of the things that brought us joy, despite our challenges. And, this is when the true transformation started to magically happen for both of us. I hadn’t done more training during this time. In fact I pretty much stopped training all together. Instead, I began to focus on our relationship, and on my own inner calm and strength. It began with really listening and seeking to understand how Charlie experienced his world. What influenced his physical and emotional experiences. What made him feel safe and what didn’t, and how and why he expressed himself the way he did. What I discovered was both fascinating and enlightening. I began to communicate with him in a way that feels natural and feels good, and which makes us both feel heard, respected and understood. And with this, came a new level of mutual trust, connection and cooperation. We now walk side by side as a team. As partners. In flow. Life is simpler. Life is easier. Life is calmer. Life is more fun. For both of us. Are we perfect? No, not in the way society might see it. But, we are perfectly in tune with each other. I know how to meet both my needs and my dog's needs, which means we are all more balanced, resilient and able to handle whatever life throws our way. I am living my dream life with Charlie (and Leila my other dog), and our family.
And the best part of my day is our walks together, in nature.
We meet people along the way, we meet dogs along the way, and we handle it with grace and ease.
In fact, it's even better than I imagined it could be…Charlie is also my ‘sidekick’ when it comes to helping my clients and their young, shy or anxious dogs. He is a wonderful role-model, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Does this story resonate with you? Would you like to experience less stress and more flow on walks? Are you ready to take the pressure off you and your dog and have more fun, exploring and discovering life together?
I am passionate about helping people to find their destined path together with their dogs, and I would be honoured to be your guide on this journey.
If you are interested in being one of 10 inspired dog-moms who want to embark on this exciting journey together, please get in touch. The next Paws Reflect Connect programme will start January 2022 Passionately,