Well, I was making great progress with NDT and wanted to tell everyone about it. Then losing each of the hounds in the space of a week stopped me in my tracks. I've always thought it was extremely important to share experiences with other people, including 'lessons learned'. I am constantly trying to do this in my day job. However, when you are being very public and something happens that might be perceived as failure (well by me anyway), you want to keep quiet about it 🙂 One thing about the Western culture is that we tend to value hitting targets, meeting goals but quite often forget the huge importance of the journey.
So I stopped.... literally. No walking of the dogs and no working with the dogs. This is a big admission for me. It was totally against the discipline I had been following and the beliefs I had developed: that dogs need regular daily exercise, that the daily work/walk between owner and dog(s) is the opportunity to bond, without that everything falls away. If I stopped working or walking my dogs, the earth would stop revolving and everything would fall apart.
But I had to stop. I was listening to my feelings and found that I had lost confidence in taking them out at all, much less working with them and learning with them. It wasn't all bad. I used the time to think. What was I doing? What had gone wrong? Why am I making such a meal out of this? Other people have dogs and just take them for walks, no big adventures (I've just seen a dog walker in Glasgow with at least 10 off the lead!). I was putting all this energy into Natural Dog Training and expousing the virtues to all and sundry and yet I had just lost two dogs in the space of less than a week (I am not saying this has anything to do with NDT, I am saying it has a lot to do about me).
I was going on a Qigong course that weekend so the dogs didn't get worked. I had some early meetings over the next week at work, so the dogs didn't get worked (or walked). One thing in my favour – I was aware of how I was feeling and knew that while I was feeling like that I was not in a good space to work with the dogs.
Then I slowly started to realise that 'not feeling right' was how I had been for some while, but not paying attention to it, trying to keep up with my training regime. I was pushing for food, religiously, each day, once or twice a day, I was doing heel work, I was playing tug, I was doing 'box' work, I was (trying) to teach them how to speak' (bark) on command. I was making every effort to fit everything in before and after work, at lunch time, around feeding the family (on a good day) and how was I feeling? Exhausted, pressured, on a time scale, trying to get to the goal where the dogs were behaving as I believed they needed to behave, and desperate to do everything 'right'.
And I was totally missing the main point of my learning in Natural Dog Training. If dogs feel what we feel, then no wonder they ran off – that was exactly how was I feeling, to be honest!
A helpful realisation, …...but it does make you wonder about labradors?!
Looking for inspiration from Kevin Behan's book, Your Dog is Your Mirror, I randomly opened on this quote which worked for me perfectly.
'But now I was learning the prey organizes the hunt and the urge to cooperate and that all acts of disobedience were actually an instinctual “argument” between owner and dog about how to hunt for prey, although the human didn't see it that way but rather saw it as an issue of respect'
And the earth hasn't fallen apart yet.