Living Wholeheartedly with your dog – part 5

Intuition and Trusting Faith: letting go the need for certainty.

The whole future lies in uncertaintylive immediately. ― Seneca

Two things which are certain in life – everything lives and everything dies. That’s it. We thrive on certainty and on predictability as do our dogs. Our dogs need have both the need for certainty in their lives (so that they can rely on us to act in ways which meet their needs) and the need to be fluid and adaptable. But I’m going to talk about us, our stuff.

Years ago, I worked with a couple who had a young Beagle. He was around 10 months old. This dog had never been off the lead. Not ever. He had spent his whole life in public on a 4-foot lead. I did some gentle questioning (well, as gentle as I could be at the time) and the woman told me that her breeder had told her that Beagles cannot be recall trained, that they would find the scent of an animal and be off and wouldn’t come back. She also told me that her friend’s dog had been struck by a car and killed a few years earlier. We now understand her reluctance to have her young dog off lead. We started training, puppers on a 10m lead and harness, lots of reinforcement through toys, play, treats and cuddles for coming back and after a short while, we had the dog moving away to greet other dogs, being an adolescent dog and eagerly coming back when called. A great start. So, problem solved? You may think so, but maybe not.

The clients and I continued the consultation and even though I pointed out that the dog was willingly standing near us when he had the option to run off and enthusiastically coming back, she still said she would never have him off lead. Not ever. She needed the certainty that he would never run away. Her need for that certainty, needing to know her dog was always safe and in all circumstances was crushing for her dogs future. He didn’t get to be a dog. I have great empathy and compassion for this woman, I get whatever trauma she has been through in her life affects her deeply but it also affected her dog too. He never got to enjoy being a Beagle as much as he could/should have. That hurts.

I recently watched the amazing series Band of Brothers. There is an exchange between one of the officers and a terrified soldier. The officer tells him the secret to not being scared in war is to accept that you are already dead, that you are on borrowed time. This allows you to act fearlessly. I’m not making comparisons to war and living with your dog but the point is that when you accept what you can control and what you cannot, it is hugely freeing. Having lived fearlessly for a long time and realising the damage it can do, I urge you not to. Living courageously is different and significantly more difficult. It is realising that you have something to lose and taking the chance on it anyway, because there is great benefit in doing so. Yes, your dog might run off and get hurt. Yes, your dog might get into a fight with another dog. Yes, you can control all of that by keeping your dog on the lead and away from other dogs but what life is that for your dog? Is risking a full life and being courageous enough to do so, accepting all which may come with it not a better option that a long, safe empty one? For me it’s a no brainer. Let it go.

Part 6 to come.

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