January 22, 2024

The Fatal Flaw Of Obedience

They said “we’re doing some dog training” as we approached them on the trail. It was two women and their dogs. One dog was on leash and being held back. The other was greeting our dog Anieko and had already started a chase game.

While that dog played and ran with Anieko, his woman called “come!” “come!”.

Her friend said “It’s down. You’re supposed to say down.”

She said “down!”

Her friend said “louder!"

So she shouted “DOWN!” “DOWN!”

We could hear their voices as we kept walking, with the one dog still running the length of the trail with Anieko. The women shouted commands at their dogs in disapproving and stern voices.

We stopped for the woman to get her dog back, then we called Anieko and went on our way.

I reflected on what I’d heard and seen: this exuberant dog running in glee and his person scolding him and demanding obedience.

I’ve been there, back when I was learning about dogs. It was the 90’s, and I used to yell at my dogs and demand control.

I had as much success then as these women did on the trail today.

It is the fatal flaw in the obedience model, that the desires of one should override the needs and wants of the other. Every time. No matter what is happening.

It’s why it was so confusing when I was working with my first love, my very first dog Carly. She was a brilliant, head-strong girl and she saw through all my attempts to gain the upper hand and maintain unbending control.

She was steadfast in her terms; I will perform your terrible little commands like a soldier when it doesn’t matter to me and its no skin off my nose. But don’t expect it when there’s more going on and something’s caught my interest.

That was my first taste of the ineffectiveness of obedience – the restrictiveness, the impracticality; it didn’t leave any space for real life circumstances.

That was way back when. And I was stuck without an alternative. I was left to the conclusion that I wasn’t trying hard enough and I had to find a way to make it work.

These days when I find myself in those same real life situations, things are different. I am supported by the strategies, tools, principles and skills of shamanic dog training.

I know now there isn’t anything wrong with me or my dog and there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing. It’s that life is messy. There is always a small (or large) disaster waiting for us around the next corner, or come tomorrow, or next week.

I realize now we’re not supposed to find the ultimate control –over ourselves, or the world, and most certainly not our dogs.

Instead we are meant to become active participants in each present moment: to receive direct inspiration and knowledge from what is in front of us and do what makes sense in our hearts and minds.

Learning to hear our hearts and minds with openness and acceptance is what we get from shamanic dog training. We get to write our own stories with our dogs. We leave the concept of control behind and we embrace co-creation, collaboration and conscious choice with our dogs.

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