“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome” – Anne Bradstreet, Meditations Divine and Moral
The year passes so quickly. Our years are born in winter and end in winter. And so much happens in those days between.
Time has changed, Halloween is come and gone and as I anticipate the winter holidays, and cold weather, and longer nights I feel like become more introspective. Today, looking out my window at a painfully bright blue sky, winter feels further away. But, for me, winter has always been a time of introspection. I guess it’s the longer nights, or the time spent with family, or the forced perspective of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t always like looking at myself. But it’s something I should do. You should do it too.
I can almost hear you asking, “What does this have to do with dog training?” Stay with me for a second. You’ll see.
Unless you are some kind of Buddhist monk or someone else who has achieved some form of enlightenment, introspection is rarely pretty. We are our own harshest critics. When my mind is turning inward on itself, I am struck with the most profound feelings of solitude and depression. I replay the worst situations from my past in my head, and it seems like I am on trial with myself for things that I did. I felt, and sometimes still feel, like the only person who experienced this. Over the years, I’ve learned that EVERYONE does that. We all just like to rip ourselves to shreds. But if you are wanting to be truly introspective, then you have to learn to move past the point of just criticizing yourself and find ways to change the things that you don’t like.
As a dog trainer, my introspection takes a different turn. For the longest time, I would tear myself down over dozens of things relating to my training work. I would kick myself repeatedly for missing something in a dogs behavior, or how my own dogs acted, etc. It took me a long time to realize that I am human and make mistakes, and I need to acknowledge those mistakes so that I don’t make them again. That is a hard lesson to learn, and one that I still haven’t mastered.
But dog trainers can’t be the only ones who are introspective. Owners need to be introspective as well. The one common theme I see among dog owners that I work with is feeling ashamed, depressed, and isolated. Those feelings are difficult to overcome, even without the behavior issues your dog is having. And I usually recommend talking to people about it. Sometimes I’m that person, but sometimes it’s your friends, family, or strangers in a Facebook group. Once you learn that you are not alone, it’s easier to seek help and to change for the better.
Once you learn to look at yourself objectively, you can begin looking at what you are doing with your dog objectively. And then you can start to really change your dogs view of the world. You can take the fear and uncertainty that your dog is feeling and begin to change that. Together, the two of you can come out of the winter of fear and self doubt, and into a summer of comfort and happiness. The seasons for the two of you will change. And while there will always be winters, the memories of summer will always be there, reminding you of what is to come.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” -Albert Camus
Keep up the good work everyone! Happy Tails!