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Dog Teaches Non-Attachment

Our dog, Harley, now six months old, has his own pace of learning.

Dog Teaches Non-Attachment

I just want the job done! 

Training a puppy is a challenge for many reasons, not the least of which are that it is non-linear, it’s a process, I don’t think like a dog, and he can’t read my mind. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, “He should just do what I want!” 

This is exactly the way we often try to train ourselves or other people too: “Just do it!” As if it were that easy.

Harley Doesn’t Just Do It

When I’m clear, I’m happy that our dog is not a robot, and that he thinks for himself and brings his unique wants and needs to the table. That’s what makes having a dog fun and interesting and challenging. 

But when my impatient mind kicks in, I just want him to “smarten up,” “come,” “heel,” and “get down.” Just like my impatient mind wants me to “get over it” when it is holding onto any stressful thought. Where’s my patience?

It’s out the window as soon as reality doesn’t cooperate with what I want.

How To Work With Reality Instead Of Against It

Harley doesn’t say a word to us. But his lack of doing what I want shows me one thing: I can’t control him. This brings up stress because people often say, “You need to be able to control your dog.” 

But you can’t just push a button to make him do what you want. 

That’s reality. It’s unmoving. Magic is not available. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to train a dog. It just means that it’s going to involve some work and some understanding. To work with reality, I have to understand and appreciate Harley a little more and I have to understand and appreciate my own needs and desires too.

Once I put everything on the table, I can find ways to work with Harley that work for both of us. 

Listening vs. Forcing

Of the dog books, websites, and trainers we’ve tried, what appeals the most to me is a book called, The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell.  What I love about this approach is that she doesn’t want to force the dog to be trained, she wants us to demonstrate true dog leadership so that the dog naturally trusts and willingly submits.

But this is a process. And you have to get it right. It’s like learning a different language. If you say the right word with the wrong accent, it is not understood. So once again, I’m put in a position of having to be patient. 

I am tempted to use the more forceful means of controlling the dog. No wonder people use those means: they get results right away. But I’m looking for control 2.0 here. I want it to be a fuller and more willing submission and that requires a lot more effort and learning on my part. I want something that truly works for both us and Harley.

Time To Do The Work

When I notice impatience coming up in me, that’s when I do a little self-inquiry. “I want him to learn faster, is it true?” I love writing worksheets on Harley because I learn about my mind and how to work with myself before continuing to train him. 

Turnarounds like, “I want me to learn faster,” are both insightful and give understanding of Harley. It is insightful because I am the weak link in the chain. Harley is waiting for me to learn dog language. I’m the slow one. And it gives understanding because, if it takes time for me to learn, it’s understandable that it would take time for him to learn. We are both in unfamiliar territory.

This kind of inquiry gives me patience. I see that I am not a victim of my dog’s slow learning, but that he is a victim of my slow learning. The responsibility falls back, of course, to me where it belongs. And as I readjust my thinking, I step into a long-term, interesting project instead of hoping for a quick fix and feeling impatient. This makes the whole process more enjoyable and more effective once I accept it.

Have You Done The Work On Animals?

There is no reason you have to restrict your inquiry to writing worksheets on people. Try writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on a pet or other animal, or even on inanimate objects. 

The process is the same. You will meet your own thinking and find innovative ways of seeing the same situation. If you want to try this with us, take The Work 101 course and write one or more of your worksheets on the animals in your life. They are fun worksheets and they are very instructive.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The next day, I see Oakley’s muddy paw prints across the otherwise spotless floors, and my heart melts. As I clean the floors, the love that I experience for the animal is huge. I know what the prints are for. They connect me to my granddog and to my son and to the lightheartedness of the animal world, and I love that I am that. The unquestioned mind might see them and get upset, thoughts might attack the dog, attack my son for his lack of discipline, attack myself for not seeing the open doors sooner; there are thousands of combinations the mind might use to attack the apparent other in its quest to maintain body-identification. But the questioned mind sees no opposition. It delights in everything life brings.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Further reading: Being Human Is Like Having A Dog