Thursday July 22nd
Your thoughts determine how you feel about your dog
In last weeks blog we discussed why we believe what we believe about dogs. Much of it is passive learning and relying on what we see and hear repeatedly. I encouraged you to challenge your closely held beliefs about dogs and look to science, curiosity and compassion as your compass when interacting with your dog, avoiding judgement, and assigning blame.
Let’s take this one step further. When it comes to your dog, you do have a choice on how you want to think about your dog. How you choose to think about your dog will determine the type of relationship you will have with your dog and the kind of life your dog will experience. When given a choice, choose to think about your dog in a positive light, think in a way that makes you feel better and feel better about your dog. Think in ways that will bring you positive emotions and positive results.
Many times when talking with my clients about their dogs they will express their frustration, making statements like “my other dog never acted like this.” It is human nature to quickly think that “different” is somehow flawed. I encourage people not to assume because this dog behaves differently than that dog that there is something wrong with this dog. All dogs are different. Regardless, if they are the same breed even the same liter, all dogs are different. Let me repeat that for the people in the back, all dogs are different. What has changed is how you are thinking about this dog.
So how do we ensure we are thinking thoughts that will ensure we feel good about our dog? Are you one of those people who believe the glass is half full or do you believe the glass is half empty? Here is a new thought, instead of spending your time thinking about if the glass is half full or half empty, think “there is a glass”. When thinking about your dog, do not think “my dog is a bad dog”, think, “I live with a dog”. No, I am not being Pollyanna here, I am working to create the best ever human dog relationship you can possibly have.
The next step is becoming more aware of how you’re thinking about your dog. As Brooke Castillo the founder of the Life Coach School and author of many books has famously said “All aspects of our lives are categorized into five things: circumstances, thoughts, feelings, actions, and results”. In that model, Brookes talks about how our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings drive our actions, and our actions create our results. Brooke goes on to say that all our emotions and all our feelings come from our thinking. This is also true when choosing how to think about your dog. So what does this look like. Let us take an example of an adult dog peeing in the house.
Circumstance – My dog pees in the house.
Thought– I am embarrassed by my dogs behavior.
Action – Keeping dog confined in a crate most of the time.
Result – My dog is unhappy and so am I.
How can we change this around so we can feel differently about our dog?
Circumstance – My dog pees in the house
Thought– My dog and I need help for this issue
Action – Reaching out to a qualified fear and pain free trainer
Result – Both my dog and I receive the training and support needed to teach my dog to pee outside.
Notice it is the exact same circumstance, however what has changed is the way we think and consequently how we feel and act.
What you choose to think about your dog at any moment will determine the type of relationship you have with your dog.
Below are examples of some of the most predominant thoughts about dogs and alternative though processes.
- My dog is just being stubborn OR my dog does not know or understand what I am asking her to do.
- I must dominate my dog so they know I am the boss OR my dog does not need to be dominated. My dog may need training and I need to appreciate when my dog is exhibiting normal dog behavior.
- My dog has so much energy, she drives me crazy OR my dog is an energetic playful dog, I need to provide activities for her.
- My dog is giving me such a hard time OR My dog is having a hard time.
Why do we cling to these thoughts that don’t serve us when there are alternative thoughts that will improve our lives and the lives of dogs? Why do we spend time thinking thoughts that frustrate us and cause us to think there is something wrong with our dog? Simply, because it is easier to believe what we have always believed. It takes time and energy to think differently, and our brains are programmed to choose the easy route.
Would you like to have a better relationship with your dog? Would you like to change your beliefs about your dog and enjoy the best ever dog human relationship? First and foremost be kind to yourself and to your dog. While I will never, ever, suggest we should treat dogs punitively, I would not suggest you treat yourself or be treated that way. Look at your dog and your beliefs with compassion but most importantly look at them with curiosity. Avoid judgement or assigning blame. Your dog is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Having a great relationship with your dog is not a mystery, with only a few people knowing how to obtain it. Having a great relationship with your dog is as simple as changing how you think about your dog. If you do not have the relationship you would like to have with your dog, start by changing your thinking. If you then decide your relationship still needs help, reach out to a certified, pain and fear free trainer. Zero judgement my friend. You and your dog may simply need some new skills. It can be done. Do yourself and your dog a huge favor by working with them to meet their needs, which will in turn improve the relationship you and your dog have. Help them by teaching them what you do want, and you will not have to spend your time frustrated by unwanted behaviors. I would love to work with you to help you and your dog gain those needed new skills.
-Kathleen McClure with The Happier Dog is graduate of the Academy for Dog Trainers also known as the Harvard for dog Trainers, where she earned a certificate in dog training and counseling. She is also a Fear Free Certified® dog trainer with a BA in Psychology. She has lived with more dogs in her home at any one time than most people will in their entire lifetime. Kathleen has worked with hundreds of families over the years to help them build the relationships they want with their dogs – and that always starts by realizing challenging or “problem” behaviors’ serve a purpose, pinpointing the purpose and devising a plan that works for both the dog and their human companions. Her life purpose is to create empathy for the positions we put dogs in and work with her clients to create your best ever human-dog bond and relationship.
Kathleen McClure is a Certified Trainer and Counselor and Fear Free Trainer. She lives with her husband and the large menagerie of foster and rescue dogs and cats.