Firstly, for those who are only just meeting me, let me explain that I have been working in dog training and behaviour since the early 1990’s and also Reiki and Animal Communication since 2001. So before you think I am some kind of floaty, ‘dress your dog in angel wings and all will be well’ kind of gal – I will tell you now that I am not! What I am is someone who has be benefit of understanding how and why dogs do the things they do coupled with an understanding of energy and energy healing and how it affects all aspects of our lives whether we realise it or not and on top of all that an unrivalled passion, love and respect for all animals, but especially dogs.
Living with a dog can be a wonderful experience of man and canine in perfect harmonious partnership, but sadly my work has shown me that this isn’t always the case. I hope this precursor to my book will help you gain a little more harmony in your relationship with man’s best friend. Here I will talk about living the ‘Spiritual way’ with your dog, don’t panic though you don’t have to have any kind of religious belief to achieve this, the Spirituality part is about love and respect for all sentient beings.
Most of the problems that develop in the dog / guardian relationship are routed in a communication break down. Please remember dogs are not English speaking animals! When I said this to one of my behaviour clients a few years ago she said “Ah yes you are right, he is from Spain so he speaks Spanish!” Not quite Pedro actually spoke DOG! The communication break down can be split into two main parts; a lack of understanding of what a dog was bred to do and a desire to anthropomorphise the dog – that is placing human expectations of behaviour onto the dog.
Let’s start with the breed specific communication problem. Gundogs like Labrador Retrievers, Spaniels and so on will often like to carry something in their mouths and if appropriately attractive things aren’t available to carry they will bring you the first thing that looks like it fits the bill; slippers, shoes, dirty laundry, they never lack in enthusiasm for finding something to greet you with, they have no concept if the label says ‘Gucci’ on it! This is what they are genetically hard wired to do. Lurchers, Greyhounds and other hound breeds will like to chase pray and some hounds are very scent focused, everyone knows about Blood Hounds! Collies and other Shepherd breeds like to herd things which often involves the chasing of a jogger and nipping at their heels! Terriers like to kill things and it is best if this is one of it’s own toys rather than the pet hamster!
When your most precious possession ends up with dog teeth marks in it, your Sunday roast gets taken from the worktop or you once again apologise to a member of the public for a doggy misdemeanour you have a choice you can react with anger, shout at maybe even hit the dog in an attempt to teach it a lesson or you can approach it in a different way. You will remain calm and respectful of the dog. There is every chance that if you break into a rage your dog will not know why. This is step 1 it will then provide a positive learning environment for teaching to begin. Step 2 is to ask yourself what reward is the dog getting from this behaviour and how can you redirect it in a positive way? Work at finding another behaviour that is incompatible with the undesirable one that the dog will enjoy.
Here is an example that happened to me just this morning whilst walking one of my dogs; He was off lead and a lady was approaching, not just any lady, this one had groceries in bags and for all I knew there could have been chicken, sausage, cheese – all his favourites. I noticed him looking, putting his nose in the air to see what he could smell and before his brain had totally engaged I called him to me, he sat as I had trained him to do and then walked beside me as requested all the while being told how clever he was. Here is the sequence: “Fido come, good boy. Fido sit, clever lad (gentle stroke behind the ear). Fido Heel, good lad”. Lady passes by as the dog walks at my side. “OH WOW WHAT A GOOD BOY, WELL DONE FELLA” (enthusiastic voice, hand clapping and a food reward of appropriate value) and a proud dog mummy moment! My dog trotted along, head and tail carriage high, having had a confidence boost and a positive interaction. I didn’t need to tell him off and erode my relationship with him as he had been redirected in positive way and given guidance on what the desirable behaviour was.
Humanising our dogs is something that we are all guilty of at times. We expect them to not stick their noses up Grandma’s skirt when she comes to visit even though this is a perfectly reasonable way for a dog to greet and fact find about a visitor in the canine world. As mentioned before we give them chew toys , but expect them to know not to chew the shoes that we left on the floor, those shoes that have a range of the most interesting scents on them making them a tough thing to resist if your dog likes to chew his toys!
Dogs have a range of emotions just as we do they can get depressed, angry, upset, happy, a bit cheesed off etc, however, this doesn’t mean that the same things trigger those emotions. One emotion that is very misunderstood is guilt. The whole ‘he knows he has been bad, just look at the way he is hiding under the table scenario. As I said before if a dog finds something rewarding it is likely to repeat it, but this could be the stress relief that it finds by chewing the sofa when it has been left for an extended period with no prior exercise and no training on how to cope when the social pack animal is left home alone.
Dogs are not naughty, they don’t plot to drive you crazy, but if you ignore them when they are being good, neglect to teach them what are suitably rewarding activities for both dog and you and here is the big one don’t give them adequate exercise then your human behavioural expectations will not be met.
So where does the Spiritual vibe fit into all of this, aside from living in a calm, loving and respectful way with our dogs? We are energy, so are animals in fact all living things are made of energy. You and your dog have a biomagnetic energy field around you (your aura) and when you have a good understanding bond with your dog the energy will flow freely, love and positivity vibrates at a higher frequency than anger and dislike. When you sit on the sofa with your dog and have one of those beautiful moments where you look into each others souls, your energy fields merge, you experience an intense loving feeling and a release of the hormone Oxytocin which research has shown that dogs also experience.
When you are angry your energy frequency changes, there will be no opportunity for Oxytocin release and you will not get the strong bond with your dog that you would like. I have known trainers who use punitive methods for getting a dog to do what they want and the dog responds out of fear because it has been broken. Only the other day I saw a man tell his dog to ‘sit, stay’ at which point the dog urinated and looked distressed. This was a dog who had been ‘trained’ with aggression. Dogs are extremely sensitive to their owners emotions, they will know when you are depressed, angry or happy, sometimes before you do! They are particularly adept and watching your body language, picking up on key ‘trigger’ words and I believe detecting a change in your Aura. If you would like to know more about the science of energy frequencies and Reiki this is an extremely good scientific document.
In a nutshell what you project out your dog will respond to. Take a little time to learn what makes him / her tick and tap into those genetic predispositions that most dogs (mixed breeds too) will have. Above all provide your dog with guidelines that it has an understanding of and with the love and respect that you would give to any other family member.
This is just a taste of how to begin to live in harmony with your dog. If you are having problems please seek the advice of a suitably qualified professional who uses positive training methods. Read Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson, Think Dog by John Fisher and Clever Dog by Sarah Whiteheadand of course ‘Train Your Dog the Spirtual Way when it is published!