Reflecting on Our Bond
Trust Your Instincts

Quote Fall 2022

My classmate did not appear satisfied with the answer our trainer had given. She’d asked a question about her dog’s behavior and it was clear that the trainer didn’t really know and that the answer she’d produced was not quite resonating.

Over many years of training and sporting with my dogs in different arenas and with different instructors and trainers, I’ve seen that look many times – the look of knowing that there must be more to a dog’s behavior than what we’re being told. 

Here’s how I see it – if we sense that there’s more than meets the eye, it’s because there is. In this month’s reflection, I ask you to trust your instincts and keep a healthy skeptical attitude when it comes to how the mainstream culture wants us to understand dogs and their behavior.

In the discussion around behavioral issues these days, when trying to understand why dogs are doing what they’re doing, the explanations normally fall into one or more of the following categories:

The dog’s breed 

The dog’s background 

The dog’s spay/neuter status 

The dog’s personality 

The dog’s underlying emotional state 

The dog’s underlying physical state

Note that we’re making it all about the dog? 

Of course, dogs bring their traits, characteristics, and unique life histories to the table. But what about the context and life situation that we provide? The reason the answers to our questions are so unsatisfying is because they completely gloss over the dog’s way of life, and yet there’s so much happening there to explain dog behavior. 

Clients who work with me quickly realize how powerful way of life is and how satisfying and fulfilling it is to experience that firsthand. There’s something terribly empowering about realizing just how much influence we have over our dog’s behavior in both our attitude and practical day-to-day living. My students discover that all the explanations we’ve given for why our dogs behave and misbehave were unsatisfying simply because they were only excuses and not real explanations. They get to see in their own dogs just how much our dogs reflect their way of life.

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