Matching chaos with calm

Trying to get your pooch to cooperate? First, says trainer-consultant and WAG the Tail columnist Cristina Losapio, get in touch with your own breath.

It’s hard for me to talk about dog training when I feel a deep need to talk about our energy. So many times we want to train the dog to listen to us or change a behavior that we don’t like, but we never talk about how to change our behavior and how we may have created the behavior. 

I am not blaming you. I am just saying think about it. Animals learn by association but they also pick up on everything that we do. They study us and take everything in, what causes us to react and even more so to overreact. 

So to me it is most important to be aware and mindful of our energy and the emotions that we are feeling while with our animals. If we could be centered and grounded while with our dogs, we can change so much more than just the relationship with our dogs. 

How do I become centered and grounded? I always start with the breath. It may start off as a shallow breath and thoughts may come up. That is all OK. See if you can feel where the breath goes. You may find the breath gets stuck in your throat and a thought about something random comes up. It happens to us all. If that happens to me, I acknowledge the thought and breathe that in and let it go, picturing the thought dissolve. 

Try again and see if you can bring the breath to your heart, then to your lungs, then your lower belly. See if you can envision the breathe go through your legs through your feet into the earth. Maybe it will help if you place your hands over each other on your heart or lower belly to feel your breath — whatever works for you. See where the breath takes you. Practice this without your dog or in the same space as your dog. Practicing this breathing will bring a stillness to your mind. 

I can describe the feeling as looking out into the Hudson River or Atlantic Ocean, and it just looks like a smooth piece of glass. This type of breathing will help clear your mind and help you to focus on what you want with your dog. You will be able to observe and assess what actually needs to happen in the moment it is happening. If you think about a chaotic moment that has nothing to do with your dog, just in general, do you match that moment with chaos or do you match it with calmness?

Think about what you want, figure out the steps to achieve that and you may just find the solution. I was on a walk just this past week with a pack of dogs and someone looked at me and said “Wow, you have your hands full” and in that moment I thought, My hands may be physically full but my mind is clear, light  and present.

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