You’re walking down the road with your dog. It’s early in the morning because you try to avoid busy periods – your dog gets easily frustrated when she sees other dogs, especially if she is on the lead. So far things are going well and you’ve even managed some okay loose lead walking!
Then, another dog walker comes out onto the street across from you. Your breath catches as you try to use a cheery voice to catch your dog’s attention, while making sure you have a good grip on the lead and reaching for the emergency treats.
Success – you make it past with just a bit of excited pulling and one small woof. But you’re on edge for the rest of the walk, and feeling frustrated again. Why oh why can’t you just go on normal walks…
Okay, here’s the thing.
Getting frustrated about the fact your dog lunges and barks at other dogs to greet them (or for any other reason) takes up a lot of mental energy. It distracts you from concentrating on your dog’s reactions and stops you seeing the small improvements.
According to Buddhist teachings, the root of suffering is attachment (to stuff, things ideas and more). So when we get attached to the idea of wanting things to be different from how they really are, we get upset, angry, frustrated, sad or anxious, and we think about it more.
I want to be able to walk down any busy road with all three of my dogs feeling calm, relaxed and able to cope with anything that comes towards us. But right now that isn’t always possible, and brooding on the fact that life isn’t how I want it to be could cause me a lot of mental suffering.
Recognising that you want things to be different is useful. Stepping back and assessing what you need to do for those changes to be possible is useful. Accepting that there was never a guarantee that our dogs would be able to do the things we want is useful.
Accepting that things are just as they are does NOT mean not trying to change things.
But it does mean being more gentle with ourselves, our dogs. Accepting the situation as it is, and exploring ways to change it.
So this week, when things don’t go quite to plan with your dog walks, just notice where your thoughts go, and save some of that energy for making a better training plan with me.
Have a fabulous week
Morag and the collie girls
PS Mindfulness (which borrows a lot of ideas and practices from Buddhism) is big these days and there’s lots of resources around. Personally I love the teachings by Pema Chodron (audio and hard copy books). She’s warm, understanding and just the right amount of challenging. http://pemachodronfoundation.org/
PPS We have a bunch of strategies that can make your daily walks easier, and specialist classes to help your dog learn better coping strategies. If you are struggling, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org