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Teaching Self-Love to Dogs and Humans

By Charlie Badenhop

Have you ever thought about the many similarities between dogs and humans?

As a child I was quite involved in breeding and training dogs and I was lucky to have a very talented and wise gentleman as my teacher. I learned a great deal from him that I apply today in my work with people. My teacher had six basic rules he employed when training dogs and you can use these same rules as a parent or professional facilitator in your workplace. Seem strange? Have a read and then decide!

My teacher's first rule is "Treat 'the pupils' with firm yet gentle kindness and endless patience." No matter what a dog did, without any trace of annoyance my teacher would calmly and gently let them know when their behavior was not what he wanted. He would also be very clear in letting the dogs know when he was pleased.

His second rule is "Consistently foster and support the pupil in developing a positive identity." My teacher used to say, "Never tell the dog he's "bad." If you tell him he's bad, he'll start to feel bad, and then the next thing you know he'll start to act bad as well. All the dog will really be doing, is confirming what you've just told him!" "Don't confuse the identity of the dog, with the dog's behavior. No matter what happens, your dog is a "good dog." And sometimes your "good dog" will have lousy behavior. "Good boy, good dog, don't gnaw on the table leg!" "Good boy, good dog, don't you dare lift your leg on those curtains!" "No matter what he does, it's very important for your dog to know his positive identity never changes." "If you think in terms of "good dog" now "bad dog" later, your affection for your dog will change like the weather and he will become confused, and not know who he really is."

Rule number three is "Let your pupil know she truly belongs, and that she has her own rightful place in the world." To help dogs fully understand this rule, my teacher applied a stroke of genius. He'd cut a small piece of carpet for each dog he trained and place the carpet in the dog's sleeping area for her to lie on each night. During the day he'd take the same piece of carpet and set it down anywhere he wanted the dog to sit. When the dog sat down upon his request he praised the dog for being obedient, and said "This is your place. You belong here." It didn't take long for the carpet to take on the distinct odor of the dog, and my teacher said this led the dog to feel "at home" whenever the carpet was nearby.

Eventually, my teacher would teach the dog to pick up the piece of carpet in her mouth, and carry it to wherever they were going. The dog would set the piece of carpet down when they arrived somewhere and sit on it, with my teacher all the while praising her for being so good. At this stage, the dog begins to feel she truly belongs in every place she travels to, and every place feels like home.

The fourth rule is, "Teach by example." If you want your dog to be strong and calm, then you must be strong and calm in your dealings with her. If you want the dog to love you and live for the opportunity to protect you, then you need to teach love by example. You don't expect the dog to love you just because you feed her and give her shelter. The dog winds up loving you as a natural reaction to your love for her. As my teacher used to say, "It's very simple. Love is a circle, it's not a straight line."

The fifth rule he called "The length of the leash." You need to be able to sense the dog's understanding of what you would like him to do, in relation to what he would like to do. If the leash is too short the dog feels coerced. If the leash is too long the dog has no idea what you want, and comes to rely on his own will and whims. Achieving the "just right" leash length is something you need to learn anew for each dog you train. Eventually you want to get to where you can think a thought, and have the thought travel the length of the leash down to the dog. Once this starts to happen you have a clearer and clearer sense that you and the dog are "one intelligence."

It's important to occasionally let the dog do what he wants to do, even when this runs counter to what you want him to do. This is crucial for building a good relationship, and sometimes you discover the dog has a better understanding of what is taking place than you do!

In the end, you want to take off the leash completely, and let the dog act from its own sense of right and wrong. Rule number six is, "Treat your pupil as you yourself would like to be treated." Pretty straightforward yes? Don't for a moment believe a dog deserves any less respect than you do.

I ask you now, wouldn't these six rules work just as well with humans as they do with dogs?


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