The Way of Life method is not only a way of doing things with dogs, it is also a way of thinking about dogs and relating to them. Our method stands in contrast to how dogs are seen in the mainstream culture.
In the conventional conversation around dogs and the many behavioral issues they present, dogs get labeled with words like “anxious,” “insecure,” or “reactive,” and people come up with justifications for these labels. The result of labeling dogs and justifying these labels is that they stay dysfunctional, because we think this is simply what they are. We overlook the situations and relationships that gave rise to their issues.
Therefore, the first thing we do in the Way of Life Method is lose the label, because our dogs will be however we see them. If we see them as reactive, anxious, and dysfunctional, that’s what they will be. If we see them as sound, strong, and spirited, that’s what they will become.
When I work with dogs, I note their dysfunction, but I don’t dwell on it. My mind quickly focuses on and talks to the real dog I know they are inside. And because the dogs can tell that I am holding them up to a higher standard, they want to live up to that standard.
This holiday season, when time has a way of slowing down a little, imagine the dog you want – the dog you know they are inside. Close your eyes and visualize situations where your dog behaves in healthy and happy ways. For example:
If they react to dogs, imagine them walking past dogs and happily ignoring these dogs.
If they are fearful in the car, visualize them taking car rides with a smile on their face.
If they mindlessly take off after squirrels, see them perking up but staying at your side.
If they get possessive over their toys, picture them indifferent to you tidying up.
If they harass the cats, visualize your canines and felines peacefully coexisting.
If visualization isn’t your thing, find other ways to express your aspirations. For example talk to a friend or counselor about what you’d like to see happen or write out a scenario in your journal. If it is in your mind, it is only a matter of time before you see it with your eyes.