I’m pretty sure that when I say that I can relate the child raising struggles my young niece has to the struggles I have with my dogs, that she politely waits until my back is turned and then rolls her eyes.
But, it’s true. I can’t help but see the parallels between child raising and dog rearing, it happens a lot. I guess I’m obsessive about the relationships we have with our dogs and finding better ways to communicate, teach, and influence choices.
In case you’re wondering: yes, when I take those online quizzes, I always come out as a border collie. Obsessive and passionate about their work. That’s me…lol.
Back to my point. I recently read an article about what makes a great ‘sports parent’. Author Rachel Macy Stafford talked about one particular sentence that inspired her to change what she says to her kids as she drives them around to different activities, determined NOT to be one of those ‘nightmare sports parents’ mentioned in the article she read.
“I love to watch you play” are the 6 words that opened the door to a new relationship with her children.
So, as I do my usual ‘relationship relating’… I began to contemplate the words and the feeling behind the words that I say to my dogs. Do I use a similar phrase myself?
I’m not talking about words of encouragement, guidance or cheerleading. We all do that, right?
No, this is something different.
I remember this morning, my dogs eager faces are looking expectantly up at me. My throat tightens and I catch my breath, my eyes tear just a little. I feel so awed by their rapt attention. Not because they are ‘trained’ to ‘watch’ me (they’re not) but because they freely offer their willingness to ‘be’ with me.
I think: “I am awed and I so love your beautiful eyes connecting deeply with mine”, allowing that feeling to expand out from my heart. And then I see their eyes soften just a bit, an appreciation of my appreciation.
I imagine they are thinking:
There’s no pressure here. She just loves to be here with us. That is all.
My dog runs out on a beautiful cast to gather the sheep to me, sent by a ‘shhhhhh’ only my dog can hear. I am awed by the determined purpose and by the graceful athleticism of my dog as he runs.
I think: “I love to watch you run.”
The sheep quietly arrive at my feet as my dog pauses, waiting to hear what I need next. I softly move away from the sheep as I call my dog to my side. “That’ll do,” I quietly say as I unconsciously pat my leg.
Then, to this amazing partner of mine, I say from my heart: “That was so awesome, buddy.” My dog responds by gently leaning into my leg, and releasing a sigh.
That familiar feeling of throat catching, eyes welling, heart swelling comes over me.
I imagine he is thinking:
There’s no pressure here. She just loves to be here, doing this with me. That is all.
I’m reminded of so many times like this with my dogs.
The times that I soften my body and open my hands into an invitation, and without a spoken word: my dog runs, full speed, eyes smiling and presses her head into my waiting hands.
I am awed to be the subject of this pure adoration, unrequested attentiveness, and eager responsiveness.
As my dog is pressing her head lovingly into my hands, I hope she is thinking:
There’s no pressure here. I love when she invites me into her hands. I love just being here with her. That is all.
Special Thanks to Ms Stafford for your inspiring article.
Here’s Your Challenge:
How can you be a better partner for your dog? How will you change the words and underlying feeling as you train, work and compete with your dog? Tell me about it in the comments below. Or, do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on this topic? I will be your eager supporter and I can hardly wait to read your thoughts!