I have had so much going on the past few weeks… months? It’s been difficult to find the time and clear state of mind to write regular posts. But, just as it’s starting to get warm here in Germany, I am finding fresh air and things are less hectic. It will be easier to live in the moment! Which is exactly what I want to write about today.
Animals always amaze me with their ability to completely change from one moment, one second, to the next. Time and time again I meet a horse or a dog who are totally crazy. Perhaps terrified, aggressive, overly reactive, or hyper. Then something changes: environment, food, exercise or the humans and/or animals with whom they live.
It also seems surprising that the animals who seem most “extreme” are also the ones who change most drastically and often times do so quickly. From my experience those difficult cases are animals who are actually very smart. They just wanted to take their life in their own hands – leading to them becoming frantic.
Recently I’ve experienced two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Labrador, who changed so much I couldn’t believe it. The German Shepherd pulled so hard on the leash with her prior owner that she was walking on her hind legs. Jumped at cars driving by, wanted to go into every store, and when forced to stand in one place, would jump around like a rabbit on a trampoline. I took her home, she got out of my car, and just sat there looking at me with calm eyes. She didn’t pull once on the leash and was just the sweetest dog – never even looking at a passing canine or human!!
I also had a Labrador who barked at my boy friend when he came through the door and pulled on the leash, etc. When she came to my house, she was the most perfect dog I could ever imagine. She walked on a loose leash and was calm in every situation.
I admire the courage, flexibility and trust that these animals have to change, just like that. I’m sure they don’t forget what happened to them. But I’m not asking them to. I am just addicted to seeing that change, that click, happen for them.
Being tense makes us more likely to lash out – in fear, frustration, or aggression.
This is the same way for our animals. By being tense when we see a dog walk towards us, we really increase the chances of our dog reacting instead of remaining calm. It can even be, and usually is, a sort of subconscious tension: we could be thinking it, have tension in our shoulders, or even be imagining how this dog encounter will go.
Even with dogs that have a “problem” seeing other dogs on walks (they pull to play, or lunge to act aggressive/defensive), I try to envision everything going smoothly. I imagine I’m walking my own dog who doesn’t react to others. I look at the other dog and think, “Good thing my dog doesn’t react badly towards other dogs!” Even if that’s a bit of a lie. It helps me stay calm, in control, and loose.
With horses, our tension can fuel their fear. We are predators and they are prey animals. Put yourself in their… hooves. What would it feel like to have a tense predator on your back? You’d probably wonder why this predator is so tense – what’s he worried about? What’s he planning? Am I going to die?
So we can start to notice how our tension can cause different reactions in our animals – prey animal or predator and depending on their personality and experiences with humans.
Let Me Whisper in Your Ear, by keithjack
This is from the Parelli program: so great to keep in mind with or without animals!
Put the Relationship First
- - whether with your horse, partner, family, co-workers, customers, vendors or business partners.
- - use open, honest and respectful language (non-violent communication).
Be the Best Me I Can Be
- - pursue a positive perspective.
- - be impeccable with your word.
- - be solutionary.
- - don’t take things personally.
Get it Done, with a Little Fun (Create Fun with Individuality)
- - celebrate individuality – you are free to be yourself
- - have fun activities outside of work without horses sometimes
Exceed Expectations ‘WOW’ Service
- -whether you are an instructor or in Parelli Support, aim to deliver more than the student or customer expects, everyone is a customer
Embrace Never Ending Self-Improvement
- - for us individually, as a team and as a family
- - nurture learning and change
- - embrace imagination an creativity
- - create support and promote opportunities for personal and professional growth
Do More With Less
- - how can we be more efficient and effective
- - work smarter, not harder
- - how can we best utilize the resources we have
- - service above self
- - be an ‘active parent’ and put your family’s needs before that of yourselves
- - be inclusive not exclusive (not autocratic)
- - values before egos
- - being authentic about helping the world from the ‘spirit’ of humility
Truth, Transparency and Trust
Keep it Natural
- - it’s a lifestyle choice
“When I first was going to school when I was little, my dad would burn a lot of bridges, so we’d have to move around a lot. And you’d go to a new school and, boy, I hated that feeling where you didn’t know anybody and nobody really liked you because you weren’t part of the crowd. But sometimes it just took another person being nice to you, and then oh, what a relief. And it’s the same thing that horses feel. If someone else just got nice to them, they’re just, ‘Oh, it’s a burden to get rid of.’”
- Buck Brannaman
“In all the time I’d known the old man, I had never once seen him offer advice to anybody on how they should be handling their horse, even when the slightest bit of information from him could have helped tremendously. It was the same reason why he had ignored the thoroughbred that was acting up in the barn at the boarding stable. The woman didn’t ask for help to settle the horse down, so he offered none. In order for her to have asked for help, she first had to admit that she was perhaps doing something wrong. Most people don’t like to admit that and will often take offense when help is offered. So, instead of running the risk of offending the woman and in turn perhaps making things even worse for the horse, he simply did nothing at all.
On. the other hand, I had seen people ask the old man for his help, and it was like opening the floodgates. Information would pour out of him like water through a broken dam, and both horse and rider became better of it. However, if they didn’t ask, he didn’t offer” (33).
Excerpt from Considering the Horse by: Mark Rashid
A good thing to keep in mind… but very hard to do!
“But you will find out what I’m talking about is a way of life. Only you know how much effort you want to put behind it. How important it is to you to get these things done. If you are satisfied with yourself, you don’t have to satisfy me or satisfy John Doe, as far as I’m concerned. If you have satisfied yourself, you are a winner — to me. The only person you have to prove anything to in your life is yourself. I think that a person who doesn’t make of himself what he is worthy of is really cheating himself.
I don’t know what you have to offer your horse so that your horse can come through for you, but the horse can do anything you ask of him. He can do this to the best of his ability. Some of them can do things better than others, but each one can do this thing his way as well as he can. For me, the horse doesn’t have to do my thing my way, but I do want him to do my thing his way and like it.“
This describes it all – for me. Wonderfully said and touches on so many things! If we really took what he is explaining in this quote and were somehow able to truly carry it through to our life… how much would our life (with horses or not) change? A quote to keep in mine – always and forever!
“If you have enough pieces, ingredients… and you have the ability to communicate about those ingredients… You need to sustain the exercise long enough to gain the coordination to do it well.
Ask yourself if it is “fair, reasonable, and possible” to do what you intend… then DO!
There is another layer you get to, and although in the process of getting there things may go out of the comfort zone, it is through this consistency that you will settle in, and find the rhythm of the exercise… and since we know that rhythm causes relaxation… You can imagine there will be a light at the end of the tunnel where you can *sigh* in the delight of your success!”
- Karen Rohlf
“I don’t believe in waiting for a horse to do the wrong thing and then punishing him after the fact. You can’t just say no to a horse. You have to redirect a negative behavior with a positive one, something that works for both of you. It’s as though you’re saying, ‘Instead of doing that, we can do this together.”‘
- Buck Brannaman
This quote says so much… Mastering how to redirect bad energy is #1 on my list. Imagine what we’d be capable of! With humans and animals – redirecting negative energy is key.
One thing my job, training guide dogs for the blind, has taught me is to not be so self conscious.
There are always people around: asking “annoying” questions, glaring, pointing…
“Why is she having her dog walk to a bench and rewarding him for it?” or “Excuse me, can I give your dog a biscuit?” or “So… is the dog blind or are you blind?”
Since I do most of my training in the city, I felt a bit awkward in the beginning. It felt odd correcting my dogs if they walked onto the road without first stopping. They have to stop to signal their future owner (someone who is blind) that there is a small step or a sidewalk before the street. So I really make sure the dog stops. If he doesn’t, I have to turn around and walk toward the street again until he does. Sometimes I miss the green light and have to wait a while longer. I get looks…
But the key to training is consistency. I can’t have my dogs thinking that they can stop before a street sometimes but not when there are people around! So there’s a lot of pressure on following through.
This can be hard because, I’m sure this is the same for others, we want our animals to come across “perfect”. As in, “Oh, I never have to correct my horse/dog, etc” But we do… The truth about it is that if we show our animal we are still a good leader for them even when we’re around others, they will relax and behave around others as well.
I train with the dogs as if there is no one watching me and I give their commands loud and clear – not muffled to avoid too many turning heads. It’s easy for me now to ask people to put their barking dogs on a leash and, if they aren’t able to call them back, I feel alright chasing their pup off myself. If I take my job as my animal’s leader seriously, they’ll take their job as my partner seriously as well, and our communication and discipline will soar!
Shadow, one of my dogs in training, and I enjoying a break in training.
Telling your animal to stop an unwanted behavior, will not hurt their feelings.
It’s odd how sensitive people are when it comes to dealing with confrontation or even a quick correction. For animals, correcting others is simply something you do if someone’s being rude. It’s never taken personally.
Being a balanced leader for your companion/s through this kind of authority takes practice, practice, practice… and constant emotional control. Perhaps people have a hard time correcting their animal (and sometimes saying “no” – verbally or with body language), because they’re worried he or she won’t like them anymore. If done correctly, it brings out the opposite emotions in your animal: respect and trust in your leadership.
The key is to correct an unwanted behavior without involving emotions (fear, anger, frustration). After you correct, it’s important to act calm and happy again. Don’t stay in a frustrated mindset.