Any of you that have been following this blog for a while know that I am all for positive thinking. Tony Robbins referrs to it as not creating self limited beliefs for yourself. In Shaping Success I wrote about how I learned from my mistakes of doing just that. When Buzzy was young (and a handful for me) I kept telling people “he is going to be a great five year old.” Now that is at least one step better than many people who limit their dog’s long term possibility by repeating things like “he is just a bar knocker” or “one bar is just the story of our life”.

Guess what, Buzz was a freaking brilliant five year old. That year he won the AAC Nationals, he came 2nd by only a few hundreds of a second in the USDAA Nationals Grand Prix and he and his team won the USDAA National Team Championship. He was a great 5 year old. But what if he could have been a great 3 year old but my cloudy vision didn’t allow for that to happen?

When you call your dog a “shut down dog” or a “softy sucky dog” or a “bar knocker” or a “wide turner” is that being realistic and just living with “what you’ve got?” Or is it possible that your dog knocking the one bar a run or being afraid when other dogs are not is just an isolated “event”? An event that is meant to send you a wake up call to make a change. If you don’t make a change  this event becomes a pattern and if you accept this pattern as your reality it becomes part of your journey.

Often when people label their dog’s by their perceived limitations they are doing so to overcome some embarrassment or frustration they are feeling about owning a dog that may knock bars or sniff in the ring so frequently. They make a joke and laugh off their “bar knocker up to their old tricks” possibly to try and  cover up this disappointment. I would like to suggest every time you make this joke or repeat your limited belief that your dog is _________ (you fill in the blank) you are creating a new reality that does not have to be yours or your dog’s reality.

My now retired JRT mix DeCaff had her difficulties as a younger dog. Her lack of confidence early on expressed itself with many fears such as; aggression towards other puppies and dogs, shut down behaviour in the presence of strong wind, an uncomfortableness with any different texture of footing under her paws, worry about being touched anywhere from her shoulders forward . . . I could go on but I won’t:). My point is that early on many other people (not me)  labeled her “Deak the freak” because of her lack of confidence about life.

My-Dee-Dog (or Mighty dog if you say it fast enough).

When I won my first big championship with her one of my instructors send me an email, congratulating me but at the same time making the admission she was one of the many that thought it was unlikely DeCaff would ever enjoy agility let alone do well in it.  I wrote her back this one line

. . . “when I look at my dogs I can only see greatness.”

I don’t focus on what isn’t there with my dogs, I focus on what is. I take up ownership of anything that can be made better and I spend that dog’s career trying to make it better.  Lets face it, if these dogs where just family pets, with no responsibilities other than keeping us company when we go to the bathroom at night, there would be no disappointing, no negative nick names or phrases attached to them. Why, because we want to do agility, must these dogs suffer us acting, talking or joking about them as if they have failed us some how?

DeCaff didn’t run as fast in the ring as she did at home until she was five years old. But yet she won and placed at more National and World Championships throughout her career then any other dog that I have ever owned. Had I joined in and called her Deak the Freak when she first showed this lack of confidence I know we never would have enjoyed the journey we are still enjoying (now out of the ring).

So here is a new question for you. What if  you are right and I am wrong?  What if your dog really is just a bar knocker or a shut down dog or not as good as his litter brothers or your past dogs. What if some dogs are just born with talent while others are not? What would be the harm of you taking up my suggestion and look at these events as passing stages that are meant to send you messages to make alterations to your training rather than looking at them as terminal realities? What if you did what I am suggesting and in the end your dog didn’t alter his behaviour and he did spend the rest of his life with these limitations? Would your dog training knowledge be better or worse because you looked at these challenges as messages meant to find dog training solutions? Would your relationship with this dog be better or worse because you decided to stop rehearsing your disappointment or frustration due to these limitiations?

Hmmmm . . . . just puttin’ it out there.

Is there a difference between being realistic and describing what you see and creating this reality with your thoughts, physiology and actions? I think so and their are tons of phycology studies to prove I am  right to do so. Here is an experiment, lets all take a 24 hour period and become more aware of every joke, nick name or loud disappointing sigh we have  about or towards our dogs. It may be very revealing.

Today I am grateful for DeCaff, I really need to write a book about our journey together and the miles of lessons she has taught me.