“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” – Rose, The Last Jedi
Maybe I quote Star Wars too much. Maybe not enough. The reason I do, and the reason I love Star Wars so much, is because there are a lot of good lessons in those movies (and books, cartoons, comics, etc). And a lot of those lessons involve controlling your emotions, facing your fears, and overcoming the things that hold you back. Especially the things in your mind.
When I am working with reactive dogs, the owner’s ultimate goals are peace and control. Peace in their dog, their home, and when they go out. Control in their ability to teach their dog, or in some cases, simply prevent their dog from hurting someone or something. These are excellent goals. But these goals are just that: goals. They are products of something else. We seek these goals, but it is what we do while we are seeking them that is more important.
The first step to reaching peace and control is to understand why we want them. What emotions are driving us towards our goal? In this, in helping our dogs get to a better place, there is nothing that will work except for love. Love has to be why we are doing what we are doing. Not fear, not anger, not exhaustion. Those emotions will not sustain your efforts. Love has to be what motivates your desire to help your dog. It has to be your driving force.
Think about other relationships you’ve had. Which ones have succeeded and which ones have failed? The ones that succeeded, what were those relationships based off of? All successful relationships, the kind that endure through years and storms of life, are based on love. Your dog is no different. Your dog may not live as long as you will, but you will be there for their entire life. Love has to be your motivation if truly want to see a change.
I know this blog post may seem a little sappy for me. But this is a difficult subject and one that I see on a daily basis. The one phrase I hear constantly from owners: “I just love this dog.” They say it like I’m going to judge them harshly for loving a dog that barks at strangers or tries to bite something that terrifies them. And those are the owners that I work the best with. When I hear that phrase, spoken with sincerity, I know that we’re going to accomplish something great.
When you are working with your dog, keep this in mind. Every action you take to teach your dog, or control your dog, or try to make things more peaceful for your dog, should be driven by love.