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  • Heidi Blackie

Life lessons from dog training school

I have a dog. A very smart, special, high energy, sometimes anxious, joyful creature who has challenged me from the very beginning. She is a worker who must be employed, and, after reading books, watching videos and exhausting local class resources, I decided to go to school so I could continue her education. I love to learn, and was amazed by how applicable the information was to my own life and relationships. I am sharing just a few of the things I use daily, and hope they are helpful for you.

Set yourself up for success.

Whether I am walking or working with her, I always think about how I can set my dog up for success. What things in the environment may distract or trigger her, and what can I use to help her succeed? If I want to work on backing up in a heel in a straight line, I may practice next to a wall so she stays straight, or have her heel to my outside as we go by another dog that looks “too friendly”, or anticipate her going after a squirrel and throwing a treat scatter on the ground so she stays with me.

What are ways you can set yourself up for success? Maybe it's going to bed earlier so you can think more clearly at work or before a presentation, setting a timer to take breaks at work before your body tells you through pain or discomfort, or looking at your schedule for tomorrow, tonight, so you can be prepared.

Celebrate your successes—no matter the size.

With my dog, I celebrate her efforts, behaviors, and her enthusiasm to work with me—the type of reinforcement differs, but it is all positive and strengthens our relationship.

Our brains are wired for negativity, and it takes conscious effort to shift toward the positive and be kind to ourselves. Even a whisper to yourself, “yes” or “good job” in recognition of an achievement or effort—big or small, goes a long way to improve overall well-being, and cultivates a shift in the brain toward noticing the positive over the negative.

Be present.

I always admire animals' full immersion in the present. Sure, their past experiences help inform how they behave and respond, but for the most part, they are taking in information and responding in real time. We can do that too, but we need to practice.

There are more things competing for our attention than ever before. The frequent volley between the past and the future causes us to miss what is right in front of us—this moment. Being present means there is no space for worry, or fear, or anxiety, because those emotions are all based on the future. Being present helps us to focus on the task or activity at hand. This way of being is what mindfulness is all about, and research shows it can reduce stress and anxiety, and even rewire the brain—all of which help us to respond to life with resilience. What are things you do to stay present?

If you have questions about how Ergology can help you, or any comments about what information you are curious about please reach out.

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