Do you ever feel sometimes you are Alice in Wonderland? As if you are gazing and then stepping into the looking glass? Where everything is a rhyme or riddle and unclear, seems out of place, backwards or opposite of what you’ve been accustomed to? Not sure of the reflection you’re looking at or to the place you are going? You’ve entered unchartered territory and feeling lost, confused, scared and insecure. You’ve entered a whole new world and now what?
Life has a way of throwing unexpected or difficult situations at us that makes us feel – lost, confused, scared and insecure. Taking us on a different path other than the one we’ve already mapped out. I often seem to look at the world as if it’s a looking glass. I stand staring at the reflection in front of me, as if I’m stepping through into a new
territory. Sometimes I love what I see, sometimes I don’t and want to just go back, cover it up, take a peek later and hope for a better view. I want to see and be in a world that is always beautiful, filled with harmony, uncomplicated and manageable. What I want to see and what I get are sometimes very opposite of the road I’ve mapped out. The fact is, we get good and bad days and this world is complex, contains adversity and can be very demanding, yet so very beautiful and enchanting.
However, through these obstacles, I am thankful it is not always a pocket full of sunshine. I welcome the storm clouds. Why? When we have good days, we feel good, we celebrate and feel invincible. When we have bad days, it’s a good reminder that although it seems the mountain is too high to climb or the sea is too deep to stay afloat, we will make it. We press forward, climb that mountain of doubt and cross the sea of uncertainty and it’s because of these adversities we remember how it felt on our pleasant days and it keeps us going. We take the bad with the good.
If we only had bad days, we would never know what it felt like to have sunshine at our back and the warmth it gives or how good our spirits have been lifted. If we only had good days, we would never know how to re-map our path, how it feels to accomplish a task of any level of difficulty, the true meaning of success or how good it feels to celebrate it. We need the good with the bad and vice versa. We strengthen ourselves for pressing through, even when the view is unexpected and we feel lost, insecure or confused. We celebrate our victories no matter how big or small. Look ahead to what’s in front of you, don’t look back at what was or could’ve been.
So, how can we apply these lessons and ideas to our dogs?
When it comes to training our dogs, applications to this idea are very similar. When sharing our lives with dogs, we tend to perceive how life should be with them. We envision how our dogs should behave, perform and act in all situations. We place our human rules and expectations unto them.
We have mapped out and strategically planned our training lessons and how we think they should go for ourselves and our dogs. Every move like a chess piece. Most days are great, some are challenging. Almost always we can look at our dog and see this amazing, brilliant, beautiful creature who is not only manageable and compliant but our best friend and faithful companion who gives us their heart and soul. Other times, we wonder what the heck we did or are doing wrong, why did they choose today to be stubborn and not listen, and why won’t they just make training them easier? How we got on this path when we thought we were going the right direction.
It is at this point that now they have become our looking glass and we step into a new and uncertain world. But, here is another thought, maybe we are their looking glass and they’ve entered into the dog version of Wonderland? That they too have entered unchartered territory and feeling lost, confused, scared and insecure. This is the visionary turning point when the looking glass becomes a two-way. It’s not just about us and what we see, but also the reflection that stands in front of our dog or dogs. Is their view of us what we think it is? Have they thought they were taking the right path, but suddenly entered into unchartered territory? Are they feeling confused, lost or unsecure? Have we made it clear to them what we what from them?
This is when communication between us and our dogs become crucial. Do they trust us to guide and lead them over that mountain or help them cross that sea? How have we established a bonded relationship and trust? Do we believe in them?
When we come across difficulties during our training time, it isn’t necessarily what we have done wrong. Don’t beat yourself up over what might have, could have and so on. Just take a deep breath and breathe. Let your mind renew itself and start over. Whatever the reason might be, it’s ok to have those imperfect days.
Maybe you’re having an off day, maybe your dog is. Maybe the communication line just isn’t clear enough and we need to find a better way to tell and show them what we want. Maybe our body language is conflicting. Maybe they only know a cue, such as sit, in the living room and haven’t been taught from the beginning stages of the cue in the dining room. It’s up to us to problem solve what the problem actually is, to better help our dog understand what it is we would like to see from them.
Each training exercise whether it’s brand new or one that you’ve worked on before, needs to start from the very beginning, step by step when teaching our dogs in a new environment. What we teach indoors, is going to have to start from the beginning with the first to last step in the backyard and then again on the sidewalk in front of our house and any other new place they might experience. When it isn’t working we need to step back, reflect, then re-map a different route and start over. Step by step with gentleness, kindness and clarity.
Train the dog in front of you, not the image we think he/she should be. It is then, when we can walk and grow together on this road called Life and take on the world of Wonderland with our canine companion.
Until next time. Happy training!
“Well, now that we have seen each other, if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
– The Unicorn in Alice Through the Looking Glass
“When life is sweet, say Thank You and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say Thank You and grow.”
– Shauna Niequist