Being Wholehearted with your dog – part 3

Wholehearted – part 3 – letting go of numbing and powerlessness

This one is a little harder as there is some deep-rooted stuff in many of us which affects us being numb. This isn’t for me to deal with as I’m only taking about how these principles relate to our lives with our dogs but I would encourage you to look at your behaviour if you are in the habit of relying on other things to avoid with what is going on in your head. You are not alone in that, it’s super common.

I’ll take more about the powerless aspect of this. I occasionally get a call, very often from a man, who says he wants 100% obedience or compliance from his dog under all circumstances. I always try to book these clients and then educate them when I see them. I remind them of what they said on the call and ask them if they are able to do that themselves. Are you able to respond immediately when your partner asks you if you want a cup of tea when you are full immersed watching your favourite football team in an important game? Do you immediately respond to every text message, email and phone call you receive (please say no, it’s not healthy). Then I ask them to think about if they are holding their dog to a higher standard of performance than they hold themselves. I remind them that they may have a dog who has been in the planet for months and is navigating a mainly human world and ask them if their expectations are fair or realistic. Then we start training.

Stoic philosophy talks about taking control of the things we do have power over and accepting the other stuff completely (wholeheartedly?). An example – we haven’t trained our dog’s recall well enough and they get away from us. We call our dog but he doesn’t respond. We get frustrated and angry with our dog and maybe with ourselves. In that moment, our dog is out of control; we are powerless. What do we have control over in that moment? How we breathe, how we move, how we react, how we perceive. So take control over that.

Retired Navy SEAL commander, Jocko Willing talks about this same thing. Many people know what the SEALs are but not very much beyond that. Google Navy SEALs Hell Week and read some of that. It’ll give you an idea of what these men can do (there are no female SEALs yet). Jocko tells us when his men would come to him with a problem his answer was always the same. Good. Good that we get to deal with this and good that we get to grow. Good that we do and not someone else. Good that we got this dog and not someone who was going to mistreat this dog or use harsh methods in training. Good.

What else do we have power over here? Once we get our dog back we have power over our training plan. Our quest for knowledge (ask if you don’t know). We have power over our own actions of how to proceed.

We cannot do everything, but we must do everything we can. That’s goes for all aspects of being a good human, not just in relation to our dogs. I think this is the key to not feeling powerless.

Part 4 to come.

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